Two years ago, the most amazing thing happened to the world of sensory difficulties.
Our son Nathan’s love of football, but inability to attend a match due to his sensory difficulties, gave us the drive, fight and utmost determination to change this, not only for him, but for thousands of other families in the same situation.
Two years ago today our sons life changed for the better. Our blood sweat and tears had paid off and we knew that we had to go on in the same vein as we had for the last year to help more families throughout the world.
Two years today marked a groundbreaking alteration to stadia for those with sensory difficulties.
Two years ago today, The Nathan Shippey Sensory Room opened at the Stadium of Light.
In the lead up to the room opening on 15th August 2015, we, as parents knew that it was unacceptable that not only our son, but thousands of other families affected by sensory difficulties couldn’t even think of attending a live match due to a lack of facilities. We could have turned a blind eye and tried to distract him from the subject of football, but anyone affected by autism knows that’s an impossible task. We could have sat with him weeping day in, day out, him asking why others could go, but he couldn’t manage. We could have shrugged our shoulders and walked away from it…but we didn’t.
We knew that if our son struggled to go, but had the passion for it, that there would be many others in the same boat. That’s what spurred us on.
So, from sitting in our living room and discussing what was needed, we put pen to paper and began our campaign. We contacted Sunderland AFC and worked at length, introducing them to special schools, guiding them through sensory rooms and introducing them to specialists. It was hard, with long hours and a huge amount of meetings and communication.
For us, it was simple…for others, it was hard to understand why it was needed.
Two years ago The Nathan Shippey Sensory Room opened. It was full for the first match and every game after that, with a waiting list at the end of the season.
We have met and hosted over one hundred supporters in The Nathan Shippey Sensory Room over the last two seasons and each one has been an absolute delight! Away fans as well as home, adults as well as children.
Since 15th August 2015, we have had input in eight sensory rooms; Sunderland AFC, Notts County, Watford FC, Airdrie FC, Middlesbrough FC, Rangers FC, Khalifa Stadium (Qatar) and one more set to be announced!
We also have another five making progress!
We are so thrilled that we can help so many families enjoy watching live sport.
Our pride is in our inspiration and drive…our son Nathan, without him, none of this would be possible. He has created this and we are simply his voice. He shows us the way forward, what is needed for him, and so many like him to enjoy life.
Nathan, and our two younger boys (also diagnosed with autism) will always be our heroes.