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Every young child loves toys – but for Evelyn Whiting’s family the struggle to find and afford specialist sensory aids to encourage her development has led to the Folkestone nine-year-old becoming bored and frustrated.

Evelyn has a diagnosis of severe learning disabilities due to microcephaly, hypertonia, global developmental delay and visual impairment. She has no independent mobility and relies on her family and carers for all her needs. She can go days without sleeping and becomes exhausted, frustrated and difficult to manage.

Mum Alexandra Whiting said: “Because Evelyn’s school is doing so much with her, I need to continue the good work with her at home. Unfortunately, specialist disability toys are very expensive and, having four other children, I just can’t afford them. Baby rattles don’t interest her any more and she becomes very frustrated, because she is bored, and hits her head. She needs toys to stimulate her vision and develop her thought processes.”

Evelyn is a pupil at Foxwood School in Hythe, for children with profound and severe learning disabilities.

The high cost of sensory aids prompted Alexandra to turn to leading UK children’s disability charity Newlife Foundation for help to fund £922 of specialist equipment. Newlife lead nurse Karen Dobson said: “Play is important to all children, but for those with a disability the opportunity to access a variety of interesting and varied aids may not be a reality. Some of this equipment is around £200 for a single item, which puts it beyond the financial reach of many of the families we support.”

She added: “Sensory equipment is effective for children with visual impairment, can have a calming effect on those with behavioural issues and stimulates others with learning difficulties. The use of sensory equipment encourages children to get more control over their bodies and their environment and can be a fun way for families to interact.”

Newlife has provided £169,142 of specialist equipment for 117 children in Kent. However, the charity is experiencing hugely increased demands on its resources; calls to the Newlife Nurse Helpline – 0800 902 0095 – have shot up by 81 per cent. This is an average of 300 calls a week, with thousands more hits on the charity’s website

Newlife CEO Sheila Brown, OBE, said: “Because of the huge demand, we are calling on ‘local heroes’ to help us raise money to fund equipment in Kent. Newlife guarantees that 100 per cent of any gift or donation will go directly to support disabled children in the county.”

If you think you can help, the Newlife Community Fundraising Team can be contacted on freephone 0800 988 4640. Any individual or organisation thinking of running a fundraising event is asked to contact the team, who can offer support and guidance.

Any money raised in excess of Evelyn’s needs will be used to help other disabled and terminally ill children in Kent. Newlife is currently working with five families in the county, with equipment needs totalling £5,205.

Pictured: Light Diffraction Panels

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