Sensory Souls has evolved from Sensory Movie Day, which was created in August 2011 by Chanelle Avison.
Recognising a need for Special Needs children to be able to attend the movies in a safe & judgement-free environment, Chanelle organised for movie sessions where children are free to move around the cinema, with lighting dimmed and the sound lowered. Volunteers monitor the fire exits (to police the ‘runners’!) and the session is a ‘judgement free’ zone.
Sensory Movie Day is currently run in 13 locations around Australia.
In September 2013 Chanelle was joined by Leah Keating, who provided assistance and support with Sensory Movie Day.
After the success of the movie events and listening to many of the families who attended, Chanelle and Leah recognised a need for the children to have a wider range of fun and new experiences; there has subsequently been a major expansion in the number of events and the range of activities organised. These now include horse riding, tenpin bowling, stand up paddle boarding, surfing, pool days, museum visits, Train rides, visits to Australia Zoo and many more.
Further to these activities, families also told us about their desire to have their children’s photos taken with Santa, and the challenges they faced to have this done in an environment where their challenges were understood and catered for. From this, Sensory Santa was born, with sessions specifically ear-marked for Special Needs children, and where possible, Sensory Souls representatives in attendance to assist.
From a base of 19 shopping centres in Queensland running Sensory Santa sessions in 2014, this event grew to 73 centres joining us across both Australia and New Zealand in 2015, with more expected to join in the future.
With the growth of Sensory Movie Day, Sensory Santa and the various Sensory Activity events we have decided to form Sensory Souls to incorporate all of these.