FOR five years, staff at a centre in Headington have cared for dozens of children with disabilities. Viking House in Saxon Way opened in 2007 after being taken over by the children’s charity Barnardo’s.

Later this month it will celebrate its fifth birthday with the grand unveiling of its new sensory room.

Currently it provides day and overnight care for 39 families and has supported 88 families over the last five years.

As well as a specialist interactive therapy garden, which was officially opened by Blue Peter gardener Chris Collins in 2009, the centre also has three therapeutic spaces.

They include an indoor play room, a new chill-out lounge, a teenage ‘sanctuary’ with a computer and TV, and its latest addition – the art sensory room, which will be unveiled as part of the centre’s birthday celebrations.

Viking House manager Sue Morris said: “It will be lovely to celebrate this anniversary with all our children and their families and to officially open our new sensory room which has been created thanks to a £20,000 donation from the Infineum fuel additives company based in Culham.”

She added: “The sensory room has bubble tubes which change colour, and can be operated by the children.

“There are also fibre optic cables, a water bed, a sound system and comfy cushioning which extends half way up the walls.

“It really is a fabulous resource for our children to be able to use.”

Viking House will mark its fifth birthday with a barbecue party between 1pm and 3pm on Sunday, August 26. Among the party-goers will be the Avery family from Blackbird Leys, Oxford. Seventeen-year-old Sarah Avery has been using Viking House since it opened.

Her mother Ann, 40, says their family life has been enriched beyond measure thanks to its care.

The mum-of-four said: “Sarah has mental and physical disabilities, and enjoys the facilities at Viking House five nights a month.

She loves it there.

“She gets really excited when we pack her bag and looks forward to using all the facilities with the staff like the sensory room and ball pool – things which we just don’t have the space for at home.

“She’ll sometimes go for a walk into Headington with staff, who she knows really well, and it’s a chance for her to be with her friends.”

Sarah has epilepsy and needs constant care. Although she has no speech, she has good comprehension and is able to communicate how she feels with general expressions and body language.

Mrs Avery said: “When Sarah is at Viking it gives us a chance to just chill a bit. It’s easier now the other kids are a bit older because they can do their own thing.

“My husband Stephen is a keen bike racer, a cyclist, so we get a bit of free time to do things like that.

“Otherwise I am running around making sure Sarah is OK, it isn’t easy to get free time to do other things.”

She added: “Without this support it would have been really tough.

“We would have coped as a family, because we’d have to, but it would be a lot more stressful, especially when the others were younger.”

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