New special needs hub hopes to make Northern Ireland more inclusive for families

A new online hub for special needs is hoping to make Northern Ireland more inclusive for children and parents.

Katrina Jones has set up the SEN Hub NI as a way of bringing parents, businesses and charities together so they are able to help identify places that are safe, inclusive and understanding of those with special needs.

An educator who works with children with severe and complex needs, Katrina said that many of the families that she works with are concerned about where they are able to take their children too as some locations can be distressing for them or don’t have the facilities that are needed for their child such as suitable toilet facilities.

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She says she has created the online hub as a way to signpost parents to places that will be fully inclusive for their children, while providing a platform for businesses, venues and charities to offer their services which parents may not otherwise have access to.

Speaking to Belfast Live, Katrina said: “It can be very difficult for parents of special needs children to find places that they are able to go that are safe and inclusive for them.

“For some children a trip to the supermarket can be a very distressing time for them for a wide array of different reasons such as loud noises or even the amount of people who are there as well.

“They can also have problems finding places for their children to play or visit because the venue may not have suitable changing and toilet facilities for them or be wheelchair accessible. This is a particular problem for the parents of teenagers, because while there may be facilities. For young children, many venues will not have things such as harnesses that are needed for children who are much bigger.

“This hub will allow parents, businesses and charities to make each other aware of things such as quiet times in supermarkets, wheelchair accessible beaches and inclusive play facilities or things that will help with their child’s care such as speech and occupational therapies, respite care and support services.

“The aim isto make this page a valuable resource for families and to bring as many people on board as possible so that we are able to create a better understanding around special needs and how we can make Northern Ireland a more inclusive place for everyone.”

The SEN Hub was launched just over a month ago and has already gained 1,300 members and Katrina hopes this will only continue to grow.

She continued: “The feedback that I have received from parents so far has been incredible and we are trying to address basic issues that will improve the lives of their children.

“It has also been great to see the number of businesses and charities that have been willing to get on board and we hope that this will be able to benefit them as much as it will the families.”

If you would like more information regarding the SEN Hub NI please follow this link.

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