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A great production – our Sensory Stories project takes shape

Reading is one of life’s great pleasures. There are so many benefits introducing books to children at a young age. However, for youngsters who are vision impaired or blind, it can be difficult finding books which they can truly appreciate and enjoy.

VisAbility recently secured a Telethon Grant from the Channel 7 Telethon Trust to create Sensory Story Kits. These will be distributed in public places such as libraries and centres for children with disabilities. The aim is to encourage youngsters with vision impairment to embrace the joy of stories.

Sensory packs

These kits are being made possible by a team of volunteers, community service students and staff at VisAbility. They’ve spent many hours helping to create forty in total.

Image shows volunteers busy painting and sewing
A team of volunteers, community service students and our own staff have been busy making the bags and creating the toys

Each kit contains an interactive tactile toy, a large print book, an audio copy of the book, a copy in Braille and activity cards. They are placed in a bright embroidered cloth bag.

Tactile toys

Former nurse and volunteer Norma Reece, has been helping to create the soft toys. She’s been doing needlework, crocheting and knitting for more than 40 years. Dozens of reels of wool have been donated for the project as well as other materials.

One of her favourite characters is the ‘wonky donkey’ from the book of the same name.

I wanted the donkey to be true to character so I came up with the idea of the bottom part of the leg coming off which can be detached and then re-attached with Velcro.

Norma Reece
Volunteer seamstress
Image shows Norma with her 'wonky donkey' which she has created. The leg is detachable. Velcro has made this possible.
Norma has created a ‘wonky donkey’ with detachable legs

“The wonky donkey has a missing left eye, so we’ve made an eye patch. It looks very authentic.”

Another well-known character created by Norma was a knitted caterpillar from ‘The Hungry Caterpillar’. By turning the woollen caterpillar inside out, it transforms into a butterfly.

“It’s kind of magical, I’m sure the kids will love it,” she adds.

Audio recordings

While Norma and her fellow volunteers have been busy with the craft side of the project, others such as Elwyn Edwards, have been recording the audio books.

“As a jobbing actor I’ve been in films and adverts, even an ABC crime series. Now semi-retired, I enjoy volunteering here and reading the books”, he says.

Image shows Elwyn Edwards recording the Hungry Caterpillar.
Elwyn Edwards is the voice behind some of the audio books in the Sensory Story Kits

“Normally it’s adult books, but I’m enjoying reading the children’s books. You can get more animated and let your inner-child come out.”

The Sensory Stories project, made possible by a $40k grant from the Channel 7 Telethon Trust, will be completed by October.

We offer support and assistance to those who are vision impaired through our Early Childhood Services. We can accept referrals from parents, teachers and health professionals. Our therapists and professionals have specialist knowledge. They have broad skills in child development, disability and vision impairment.