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Specialist sensory equipment provided by a leading children’s disability charity is making a big difference to a Plymouth family, bringing together their daughters who have Autistic Spectrum Disorder.

Efford mum Katrina Walsh – whose daughters Eden, aged 11, and Harmony, 14, both have ASD – is a member of Plymouth parents’ support group ‘The A-Team’.

She said: “We applied to Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children for one of their Play Therapy Pods for Eden, who also has epilepsy and Global Developmental Delay. We needed something to help calm her and focus her attention – at that point we would have tried anything.

“When the box arrived, Eden skipped and danced and spun around the room in delight. She is using the fibre optics every single night; she still might not get to sleep until the early hours but she is now much calmer. And she particularly loves the projector.”

Katrina added: “When the equipment first arrived she hogged it – but after about a week she started to share it with the rest of the family. It has really brought Eden and Harmony together. Before this, they rarely even spoke to each other; now they spend time together playing with the toys and watching all the shapes created by the projector. It’s lovely to see.

“Having an assortment of specialist sensory toys and developmental aids in the Play Therapy Pod has allowed us to find out what Eden really likes. We can’t afford to spend hundreds of pounds on something that might not be beneficial, but now we know what works we have made serious enquiries to buy the equipment ourselves.”

Newlife Foundation is a national charity supporting families of children with any significant disability, whether in-born or acquired through accident or illness. Its Play Therapy Pod service offers 12-week loans of boxfuls of specialist toys and developmental aids targeted at different age groups and complex needs. Each pod contains around £400 of equipment and is delivered – and collected – direct from families’ homes.

All Newlife Foundation services are free of charge.

Katrina added: “Newlife is wonderful; we were floundering without their help and the support we have received has been better than I had envisaged.

“I found out about the charity when I was researching toughened furniture for Eden’s bedroom. In the past 12 months she has been through half a dozen beds; she bounces a lot and has epileptic seizures during the night. We haven’t been able to find a standard bed that can survive more than a couple of months of rough treatment. But there was just no money left to buy yet another bed so Eden has been sleeping on a mattress on the floor.

“I gave the Newlife Nurse Helpline a call and talked to a very helpful nurse called Jackie. She told me all about ‘Tough beds’ and how to apply to Newlife for funding. We filled in an application form and now we are due to take delivery of the bed within the next couple of weeks. Eden is very excited.”

The specialist bed – costing £1,184 – is being funded through Newlife’s Equipment Grants service. The charity has funded more than £10million of disability equipment for children around the UK (£326,139 for 144 children in Devon).

Equipment provided includes manual and powered wheelchairs, safe environments and beds, specialist car seats and seating, walkers and standing frames, portable hoists and communication aids.

Newlife also offers an emergency equipment loan service – Just Can’t Wait – for families of life-limited children. It aims to deliver wheelchairs, beds, seating and portable hoists direct to families’ doorsteps within 72 hours and is often used to enable children to leave hospital and be cared for at home.

For more details about any of these services, contact the Newlife Nurse Helpline on freephone 0800 902 0095 or email

Katrina said: “Here in Devon, parents of disabled children struggle to access the help they need. So I have been telling all the families in our support group about Newlife. But I would also like to help this amazing charity raise awareness of the services it can offer to the families of other disabled children in the city – and further afield.”

If you would like to help families in Devon like Eden’s, 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. 100 per cent of every donation will go directly towards providing equipment for children in Devon, where the charity is currently working with three families with equipment needs totalling £8,049.

Pictured: Eden (left) & Harmony (right) 

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