“It’s a place where we can all relax and just be ourselves.”
“You don’t feel you are being judged if they start acting up.”
Just two of the comments from users of The Yard, a new play centre for children with disabilities in Fife.
In the few months since it opened at the Argos Centre in Kirkcaldy on Sundays it has proved a huge hit with families around Fife, who previously faced a trip to Edinburgh to use the purpose-built facilities.
And in that short space of time more than 100 youngsters have passed through its doors to enjoy safe and fun-filled play sessions.
The Yard Fife held its official opening on Tuesday, when families from around Fife met with officials from the charity and representatives from some of the funding bodies which have helped make the project a reality.
For the last 30 years, The Yard has been providing creative indoor and outdoor adventure play opportunities for children with a range of disabilities and additional needs, as well as support and respite for their parents and carers, at its flagship centre in Edinburgh.
Last year it expanded to offer play services in Dundee, and in July it finally came to Fife after a long search for suitable premises. Disabled children and their families can now drop in between 10.30am and 3.30pm every Sunday in Kirkcaldy.
There is a huge selection of activities for youngsters to take part in, from a ball pool and soft play area to outdoor painting space, sensory area, trampolines, bikes and scooters, den building activities, music making and arts and crafts.
A lot of its play activities involve recycling materials, and old tyres, pots and pans, groundsheets and other materials are used in its play equipment.
As well as play areas for the most boisterous of children, there are secluded quiet areas where the youngsters can go to get away from the noise and enjoy some peace and quiet.
Celine Sinclair, chief executive, who helped launch the new centre, said: “We are delighted to be able to bring The Yard’s spirit of fun and friendship to families in Fife. This will cut down on travel time for families who are already using our Edinburgh service and allow us to reach even more new families who need our support.
“The Yard provides not only a safe place to play, but also a much needed sense of belonging and community for disabled children, young people and their families. We look forward to welcoming and working with lots more Fife families.”
The Yard’s expansion into Fife was made possible by funding from BBC Children in Need, People’s Postcode Lottery, The RS MacDonald Charitable Trust and The Christina Mary Hendrie Trust.
Staff worked closely with Fife Council to find suitable premises to launch the initiative, which hopes to grow and expand.
Lynne Scott (39), from Kirkcaldy, has been going along to the new centre since it opened in July with her son Adam (16), who has a life limiting chromosome abnormality which has left him blind and with very limited mobility, no speech, with epilepsy and breathing difficulties. His sister Lily (10), also has ADHD and is currently being investigated for autism, making life a daily challenge for Lynne and dad Gavin.
Adam and Lily and their siblings Leah (14), and Amie (7) love going along to The Yard as a family, with Adam particularly enjoying the sensory activities.
Lynne said: “I go to another group called Nourish and we had a few group trips to the Edinburgh Yard which the children really loved, so we then went along as a family, and everyone loved it. “It is brilliant now it has opened here and we don’t have to travel. It’s difficult to find somewhere for Adam to go and this is ideal for all of us to relax and enjoy ourselves as a family.
“It’s a really great place to meet people going through the same as you are and to share experiences. We have all made lots of friends.
“Another good thing is that if one of the children starts playing up or having a tantrum, you know that other people won’t look at you and judge you, because we have all been through it.
“Everyone looks after everyone else and because there are the Yard staff there, you can get a bit of a break from constantly looking after them and enjoy a cuppa and a chat with the other mums and dads.”
Chantel Fox (29), from Dunfermline regularly visits the Fife Yard with her sons Oliver (6) and Lee (1).
Oliver has ADHD and global developmental delay, which means he has a mental age of 3.
“Both the boys love coming here and it is great that it is in Fife,” said Chantel.to“It has a really nice relaxed atmosphere with lots for them to do, and we come every Sunday for about three hours.”
The Yard was set up in 1986 after a group of parents and teachers of children with special needs in Edinburgh got together to approach their local authority to ask for a piece of ground on which to start up a play-based project. They were given land in Canonmills and four years later approached the BBC’s Children in Need for funding for an indoor centre to allow the families to have somewhere to meet when the weather wasn’t so good. The service was fairly small scale until around 10 years ago when, in response to a need for good quality supported play and family support for children with a wide range of disabilities, organisers approached funders to expand the service. It now runs three centres in Edinburgh, Dundee and Fife, with the latter two started after surveys showed there was a need for them in these areas.