Machen Primary School has unveiled its autism-friendly sensory den.
The den is the brainchild of local mother, Claire Kulisa, who ran the final ten miles of the Manchester Marathon on a broken leg earlier this year while attempting to fundraise for the structure.
Inspired by her daughter Lilly, 12, who has autism, Claire raised over £1,400 for furnishing the den, which is known as the Cwtsh.
The structure, worth around £10,000, was donated by Newport manufacturer Asset International, which designed and built the unique project using state of the art technology usually used for underground water management systems.
It was delivered by Kyles Transport, while Armari Plastics and Cymru Glass Cwmbran supplied bespoke windows and a door, and CJS Electrical installed the sensory equipment.
Representatives from each of the businesses were in attendance at the den’s unveiling on Tuesday, November 7, which was officially opened by Waterloo Road actor Richard Mylan, whose son Jaco has autism.
Mr Mylan explored the problems facing children with autism in the BBC documentary, Richard and Jaco: Life With Autism.
He said: “I’m here today because one of the films I made was with my son Jaco, and I know a lot about autism. This school I think might be the first mainstream school to open a sensory den.
“Everyone here, children, teachers, parents, staff are all a part of history and are making a better future and hopefully other schools will follow their lead and make sensory dens at their schools.
“I’m really thrilled and delighted to be able to open the sensory den. If my son had a sensory den in his school when he was growing up, he would have found school a much nicer place. It’s a space for everyone to use, to chill, and to enjoy.”
Claire, 39, praised the selflessness of the business who supported her aim, adding: “It’s been very humbling. I can’t quite believe how we’ve got so far in nine months and how generous people have been – and I don’t just mean with their money – with their time and creative input and passion and it’s all given the project the momentum to push forward.
“It’s really been a team effort and a lot of these people have no gain from this.
“They don’t have children in the school, they don’t live in the village, they’ve done it purely out of the goodness of their own heart.
“What’s wonderful about today is that everyone who has helped is here together and it’s great to be able to thank them.”
It is hoped regular access to the Cwtsh will enhance pupils’ concentration and focus, provide a calming influence to improve alertness and social communication skills, allowing pupils to thrive.
Machen Primary School headteacher, Andrew Lloyd, said: “As a school we have seen a rapid increase in the number of children with sensory issues who would clearly benefit from this development. For us, our 100 year old building space is limited and meeting the individual needs of all pupils, particularly those with ASD, can be a challenge.
“This new learning space is undoubtedly an asset and will ensure pupils with sensory issues get the individual support they need to maximise their learning potential.
“The vision for the project was borne by the sterling efforts of school governor Claire Kulisa. It was her remarkable achievement and steely resilience which won plaudits within the local business community who were keen to support us in our vision providing both financial and practical support
“As a school we are truly humbled by the generosity shown by all involved who ensured our dreams become a reality and will be of great benefit to generations of pupils at this school.”