Monday morning saw the much anticipated opening of BIG4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort’s passion project with a purpose, launching its new sensory room, ‘The Reilly Room’, catering for children on the autism spectrum and their families by offering a special holiday retreat.
The opening of The Reilly Room was attended by Whitsunday Regional Councillors, Al Grundy and Jan Clifford, as well as Tourism Whitsundays’ CEO, Tash Wheeler, BIG4 Head Office BDM, Lucy Coffey, Raquel Harley from The Reilly Room Project and a special Zoom-in VIP from Melbourne, Gail Watts, the founder of the Reilly Room Project.
‘The Reilly Room’ features everything expected to be found in an autism specific educational setting and has been built by BIG4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort in conjunction with Gail and volunteers from ‘The Reilly Room Project’. Gail, who is a qualified Special Needs (autism) teacher, is also the proud mother of Reilly, who had Asperger’s Syndrome and to whom the room is lovingly dedicated after sadly passing away in August 2018.
BIG4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort owner, Greg McKinnon, said, “This is a true passion project for our team. We have an abundance of fantastic facilities and activities here, but this sensory room will offer something unique in allowing families with children on the spectrum to enjoy a great Australian holiday. We would love to see more of these sensory rooms all around Australia and we cannot thank Gail and The Reilly Room volunteers for setting this up and for training our staff. We are honoured to support Reilly’s legacy.”
Tash Wheeler, CEO of Tourism Whitsundays, who was in attendance at the launch, said “We are really excited to see one our premier products implementing this sensory room facility. As a destination, we strive to ensure that every family and every person in Australia can enjoy a fantastic and wonderful Whitsunday holiday, so we are extremely supportive of this amazing new initiative.”
Features in ‘The Reilly Room’ include a large free-standing hammock which can be used to rock a toddler or for a full-sized adult to rock themselves and is large enough to wrap around a child like a safe cocoon or ‘hidey hole’. There is also a large crash mat and weighted blankets/cushions for those particular children who are soothed by pressure. A lamp projects lovely blue ocean waves on the ceiling and a music player provides calming music to soothe the rawest of nerves. There is a collection of cushions providing a variety of tactile experiences, such as vibrating, fluffy and sequinned cushions. There is a ‘Bilbo’ to rock or spin a child in, a peanut-shaped gym ball to bounce on and a large timer clock to help them ‘finish’. The room also has a sensory toy box full of motivating toys to fascinate and calm children. Other activities include kinetic sand, play dough, colouring and drawing.
Whitsunday local, Bronwyn Sainsbury, understands that holidays can be challenging for families with children on the spectrum, explaining, “The addition of ‘The Reilly Room’ at BIG4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort will allow families, like mine and many others I know, to go away for a few days or on a holiday, knowing that there is a safe place available if our children become overwhelmed. It is clear that a lot of thought and planning has gone into the creation of this room, with items to meet sensory needs, calming activities and even a social script for the families to use before they arrive. Holidays can be incredibly stressful for families with autistic children. This facility will be extremely valuable for many families who may not have been able to enjoy and participate in family holidays before this.”
‘The Reilly Room’ is accessible with a key and guests may keep the key for the duration of their stay so they can use the room when needed. The facility is set up for use by one family at a time for the comfort and benefit of the user. An ‘occupied’ sign highlights when the room is being used so whoever is ‘settling’ will not be interrupted. Guests who are planning to use the room are also provided with a Social Script for their child, allowing the family to explain what their child can expect on their holiday.
BIG4 Adventure Whitsunday Resort is the only BIG4 Holiday Park in Queensland and the fourth to launch in Australia, the others being BIG4 Renmark Riverfront Holiday Park, which was the pioneer of the program, as well as BIG4 Ballarat Goldfields Holiday Park and BIG4 West Beach Parks Adelaide. All have worked with project founder, Gail Watts, in creating a dedicated sensory room, with expectations that the number of parks will grow over time.
Jan Clifford, Division 1 Whitsunday Regional Councillor, said she was delighted to be asked to officially open The Reilly Room. “What a remarkable addition to the resort in providing this sensory room, giving the opportunity for families with special needs children to enjoy a holiday in the Whitsundays. I can’t say enough about how proud I am of this project and I hope to see other properties throughout Queensland follow this direction.”
More information can be found at https://www.adventurewhitsunday.com.au/autism-sensory-room and The Reilly Room Project can be found here on Facebook.