Hailey Anderson

Hailey Anderson

Video: Sensory Cave brightens lives

OSNS Child and Youth Development Centre in Penticton opens sensory centre for children.

Every once in awhile Otis the bear just needs to chill out, recharge and refocus before going on with his day.

For the OSNS Child and Youth Development Centre mascot there is no better place than the comfort cave named after him that’s tucked away in a quiet corner of the centre.

Inside the cave’s rocky, forest-like exterior there are deep pressure, soft surfaces (pillows and mats), soft lighting, gentle sounds and relaxing visuals including an LED bubble tube and the fibre optic tail — a captivating spray of changing light which catches and retains a child’s attention.

“Many of these children struggle with anxiety and have heightened sensitivity to sound, light, textures, touch, busy environments. They are acutely aware of sensations that most people don’t notice and this can cause them to become overwhelmed,” said the centre’s executive director Manisha Willms. “Otis’ Cave is a sensory integration therapy space so children can regulate themselves. To calm them so they can learn.

“It has been part of our mission to transform all our spaces into places of learning and our team has already started using Otis’ Cave to further improve the quality of how we help children grow.”

OSNS supports over 1,200 children annually and this new service will provide the additional support that is so badly needed by many of those young people. The cave will have the added benefit of helping educate families about the sensory needs of their children and how to give them the tools and experiences to calm them. The family inclusion is a critical component to the growth of the child done in conjunction with the centre’s work.

The project was funded in part thanks to a $9,500 Grant from the Community Foundation and its partners, in addition to the generous support of local businesses and volunteers.

As well, during the past year the centre had major renovations to improve the quality of service.

Outreach workers from the centre also travel throughout the Okanagan Similkameen to work with children in their own communities.