A generous anonymous donor has gifted the Scioto County Developmental Disabilities Early Intervention program with 200 tickets to the Candyland Children’s Museum, in Portsmouth. Families to schedule home visit meetings at the museum with intervention specialists who can observe the child as they play and give parents helpful suggestions to help their child’s development.
“In early intervention, our goal is to meet in the natural environment. So we meet in the home or at the park, and now we can meet at the museum if the family would like,” said Erica Wallace, director of early childhood services at Scioto DD and a member of the Children’s Museum Board. “Play is how they learn, so we’re watching them play. The museum has a water table, an air table, a sensory reading area; so the child will just go play, and our goal is to work with parents as we watch the child and see what they are able to do.”
The program is called the PLAY (Play and Language for Autistic Youngsters) Project, and it is an evidence-based autism intervention developed by Rick Solomon MD, a Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrician. The PLAY Project is devoted to helping parents develop a better connection with their child through play, and helping the child improve their language, development, behavior, and social skills.
“It gives them socialization, because other kids will be there. The museum has been wonderful also to offer special times for our families who need more private time. They have really worked well to include our families,” Wallace said.
Catie Metzler, a PLAY Project consultant for Scioto DD, said children with autism will often separate themselves and not want to play with others, but the PLAY Project shows them how to have fun with other people.
“The big thing with PLAY is that it’s a parent-led program. So my role is really to coach the parent on what to do everyday with their child,” Metzler said. “Some therapies will have the child come into the office for two hours a day, five days a week. It’s very intensive. But PLAY is something that I’m going to meet with families once or twice a month for about three hours and the parents are going to be doing play-therapy naturally in their home environment everyday.”
The success of the program depends heavily on the participation and support of parents working with children at home, but Metzler said they have seen significant improvement in some cases.
“My favorite statement that a family gave me was that before they started PLAY they didn’t know if their child even knew if they were in the room. She was completely unavailable to them in any capacity. After about three months of PLAY she wanted her parents in the room with her all the time. She would pull them to floor to play with her. There were still issues and it doesn’t cure autism by any means, but they noticed a significant difference in her awareness of them and want to be with them,” Metzler said.
Candyland Children’s Museum is located at 202 Market St., in Portsmouth, Ohio, and online at www.candylandmuseum.com.
For more information about the programs and services at the Scioto County Developmental Disabilities, call 740-353-0636 or visit online at www.sciotodd.org, and like and follow them on Facebook.
PICTURED: Harper McKenzie, daughter of Tina McCleese of Portsmouth, Ohio.