4th November 2019
Over twelve years ago in October 2007, Learning SPACE officially opened its doors to the public on College Street with the help of co-founders, and sisters, Lorraine and Mary McAleer.
We sat down with Mary to chat about their products, events and what’s next for their store!
How was Learning SPACE established?
The idea for Learning SPACE originally came about through frustration over the lack of educational resources available. Hailing from a background in education and social work, Lorraine and I strongly felt that educators, parents and kids deserve to have access to the best educational resources to suit their needs, allowing families to create loving and memorable experiences together.
With this drive and determination, Learning SPACE quickly became an award winning, go to supplier in the parent, gift, health and education markets across the UK and Ireland, allowing us to work closely with therapists, teachers, parents and kids to ensure we are providing the most suitable resources.
Twelve years on and we are proud to have a passionate team behind us, with a background in childcare and education, who can listen to each customer’s individual needs and advise them on the most suitable products to suit their needs and budget.
Tell us more about the products you sell – in store and online.
Along with educational resources we provide specialist products for children and adults with autism and learning difficulties. We also provide a range of toys, products and resources for those with special needs. We have a focus on sensory products such as lighting, seating, projectors etc that are an exciting way to bring sensory into your home, made possible with varying price points. Products such as bubble tubes, bubble walls, fibre optics and bubble tables can also provide great focus spots in sensory rooms.
With well over 3000 products ranging from fidget toys to wobble cushions, weighted items to interactive floors, we can cater for everyone!
What events do you have available?
We have several events happening across the year, providing something for everyone. Each month we run two autism and sensory processing training sessions for parents, carers, teachers, healthcare staff (for everyone really) which are led by our training manager Andy.
Andy brings something different to every training session and, as someone living and raising 3 kids with autism, he shares his real-life experiences to help as many families and individuals as he can. Alongside this, we also offer bespoke training sessions and a one to one session, providing a more personal take on our training
We also look to offer a variety of activities for children to enjoy in our store throughout the year including sensory story-telling sessions. All our events are listed on our website and available to book through our Eventbrite page.
We have our permanent sensory room which is free for use every day. This can be a great opportunity to see our sensory equipment in use and visualise your own inclusive learning environments at home or in school, which we can advise on as well. On busy days, we may provide a 30-minute time slot for each group.
Tell us something we don’t know
We’re a family-run business and family is at the heart of everything we do here at Learning SPACE. In fact, we originally set up shop 12 years ago as Lorraine was searching for resources to help our sister who has Sotos syndrome. Many of our team also have personal experiences with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) and it’s this personal knowledge and passion to help families across Northern Ireland and beyond which many of our customers appreciate.
Tell us a fun fact about yourselves
A few years ago, when looking for a new challenge, Lorraine decided to sign up for the Clippers “Round The World” Yacht race with tam Ha Long Bay, Viet Nam. This is where individuals, regardless of whether they have any sailing experience, can take part in different races and legs. Currently Lorraine is on her way to Cape Town and we’re keeping up to date with her achievement here.
What do you like most about running a store in Belfast City Centre?
As we are the only educational resources store for families with autism in Belfast, we get to meet so many people which is what we love about running a business in the heart of the City Centre. While some people may already know about our store through the website, or through their child’s school, we would meet tourists and locals who are just passing by the shop.
The lead up to Christmas is also fun as we see a lot of late-night shoppers coming to see us, especially because we are so close to the Christmas market!
What’s next for Learning SPACE?
We’re always looking for opportunities where we can best help families with autism and learning disabilities in Northern Ireland and beyond to grow and thrive. We’ve recently teamed up with a company in America to supply Bouncy Bands, unique products that use movements to stimulate the brain and boost mental performance, and we are continuing to work with schools across Ireland and the UK to provide inclusive learning environments. The future is bright!
Anything else you would like people to know?
If you haven’t visited our store in Belfast before, check out the map below (we’re only a few minutes’ walk away from City Hall) and come in for a chat about how we can help you and your family!