Building a sensory room set as part of her final degree show was not something Daisy Chain volunteer Zoe Widdowfield would have anticipated when she started out on her higher education course.

However, her career aspirations are to be an art therapist – then when she began volunteering at Daisy Chain and saw how important the sensory room is to young people – inspiration struck.

Zoe, 21, was taken aback by how expensive the equipment and furnishings in sensory room are so she decided to demonstrate how one could be created with imagination, a few DIY skills and a lot less money.

“I absolutely love volunteering at Daisy Chain,” Zoe smiles. “The children are amazing and it opens your eyes to what autism really is and how it affects everyone differently. What Daisy Chain offers is fantastic and you can see how the children really love it there. I volunteer on the Saturday activity days and if I have had a difficult week, it cheers me up to be there as well.

“While I was there I saw the children relaxing in the sensory room and how it helped them be calm and chill out. I could see how families would benefit from having something similar at home but how the cost of setting it up and the equipment could make it difficult as families have different circumstances. Also, if anything gets broken it is then costly to replace.

“I mentioned it when I was at Daisy Chain and have had so much advice, help and support from Laura in the Care Team. It’s important that I get over to my tutors how important sensory rooms or spaces are to people on the autistic spectrum and that the aim of the project is to demonstrate an affordable model of one.”

Zoe’s sensory set is designed to be fun and interactive for children and follows an aquarium theme. “Everything except the bubble machines has been made by hand using materials which don’t cost a lot or have been recycled, which makes it achievable for others to have a go at putting one together. I have also designed it with safety in mind so using non-harmful, no toxic materials and glue.”

The work goes on show to the public at Cleveland College of Art & Design’s final degree show in Hartlepool on June 8. There will be a private showing for friends and family the day before, which Zoe has invited Daisy Chain to.

When the show ends on June 16, Zoe will be donating all the items she has made to Daisy Chain to use in one of its chill rooms where young people can take some time out to relax in a quiet space.

Zoe, who is studying production design, adds, “I am looking forward to seeing the children being able to benefit from what I have worked on and hopefully, they may enjoy making some more things as part of the craft activities.

“Taking part in the craft activities has shown me how beneficial art and making things can be to help people with many different conditions – it’s therapeutic, relaxing and creative. It’s amazing seeing what people can achieve which is why it is the field I want to move into rather than theatre set design which was what I had originally intended,” she grins.

After her degree draws to a close, Zoe is looking forward to being able to put in more volunteering hours over the summer months and getting hands-on experience of working before she applies to do her master’s degree in art psychotherapy.

“It will be great to spend more time at Daisy Chain to build up my experience but also just because I love it. It’s lovely to be there and see the children enjoying their time there.”

For more information on volunteering with Daisy Chain, visit our Volunteering pages on our website.

6th June 2018