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SALYERSVILLE – A local mom, along with some help from the city, is making great strides to make sure Salyersville is sensory processing disorder friendly at all public events, including planning events for those in the community easily overwhelmed by the pomp and circumstance expected at parades, festivals and other public gatherings.

Laken Bailey’s daughter, soon to be three years old, was diagnosed with autism, along with other diagnoses, at 17 months, and immediately started fighting to make the community the best version it can be for her future.

“I had seen Prestonsburg and other cities were starting to get sensory tents for public events and I thought it would be good in Salyersville, where we have so many with autism or waiting for a diagnosis,” Bailey told the Independent. “It just motivated me to try to make this a better place for her.”

In October Bailey addressed the Salyersville City Council in open meeting about the possibility of purchasing a sensory tent.

“I was prepared to do the fundraising for that, but I got a lot of support from them, agreeing that night to buy one,” Bailey said.

With the support from City Hall, Bailey said she raised over $800 to fill 60 sensory bags, complete with sensory items and noise-reducing headphones, dropping them off at Salyersville City Hall to be distributed.

“They publicized it just a little bit and all 60 bags were gone that day,” Bailey said. “I received another donation for them, and we’ll have more sensory bags to drop off at City Hall next week.”

Bailey is also raising money for a sensory night, to be held in January or February for any with sensory issues in the community, having video games for the older kids, a buffet, and sensory swings to give out for those in attendance.

Those who attended the parade Saturday night may have noticed a tent going up across from City Hall, but Bailey explained that is just the beginning for what she imagines for the sensory tent.

“This will be a safe space for those with sensory issues that are maybe overwhelmed by the events,” Bailey said. “We’re going to have a lot of good items in there, with dim lighting, bubble lamps, a crash pad, fidgets and more bean bags.”

Shortly after Bailey’s daughter turned 1 year old, she said she started regressing and she knew immediately what it was and started fighting for an early diagnosis and interventions.

“She is thriving right now,” Bailey said, explaining that she gets ABA therapy every weekday in Pikeville. “We’ve tried everything, from vitamins, specialists, extracurricular activities – just anything that could help her.”

She said she also had a newborn daughter when her daughter was diagnosed with autism, and her husband worked away most of the time, making the ordeal extra challenging, but now she is focused on making the community as high sensory accommodating as possible.

“There are some sensory camps I’d love to see brought into Eastern Kentucky, and there are sensory parties and events, sports teams in other counties,” Bailey noted. “I don’t know if she will want to live here or move away at some point, but I want my daughter to have the option to stay here and have everything she needs.”

More information about other sensory events and resources will be released as it becomes available, but those wanting to donate time or money to the cause can contact Laken Bailey on social media or by calling 606-367-4248.

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