Mid and East Antrim Council has been
awarded access and inclusion funding from the Department of Communities to establish sensory experiences at a number of parks in the borough.
It is understood council plans to develop sensory trails with £30,000 funding for both People's Park, Ballymena, and at Carnfunnock Country Park outside Larne. A further £20,925 funding was also received for Dixon Park in Larne.
A sensory garden trail is all about stimulating and engaging the five basic senses of sight, smell, sound, touch and taste, that not only allows you to connect to nature, but encourages you to become more aware of your surroundings and your response to them.
Spending time in a sensory garden can help enhance your sense of wellbeing, reduce stress and calm your mind.
Such experiences have been proven to be positive and particularly beneficial to children with sensory processing sensitivities, such as those diagnosed with Autism. A sensory garden allows children to explore their senses without feeling overwhelmed by them.
Ballymena TUV Councillor Matthew Armstrong, who sits on Council’s Autism Steering Group, has been a strong voice in the council chamber, championing such initiatives in the borough, and pushing to advance the cause of 'autism awareness' and 'autism friendliness'.
Commenting on news of the funding, Councillor Armstrong said:
"I am absolutely delighted that council have had their funding bid to the Access and Inclusion fund accepted in respect of a new Sensory Trail within the People's Park.
"I thank council officers for progressing this worthwhile initiative as advancing the cause of Autism Awareness and Autism Friendliness is something I will always do my best to champion in any way I can.
"It should be a great addition to a park which really will have something for everyone and I am honoured to be associated with it, I look forward very much to seeing the plans and designs in due course."
It is anticipated that the new sensory trails will be completed by late spring/early summer 2023.