Hudson Valley Parent

HVP April 2015

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28 Hudson Valley Parent ■ April 2015 Learning through play The playground project at the Center for Spectrum Services By JACQUELINE BAIR W hen you first walk in the door at the Center for Spectrum Services, you are immediately transported into a world where children are encour- aged, pushed, challenged, and loved by the community of staff who run the building. The Center for Spectrum Services (formerly known as The Children's Annex), was founded in 1976 by Susan Buckler and Jamey Wolff. They began by teaching only two students in a church basement. Now almost 40 years later, they have campuses in Kingston and Ellenville, and a student population of around 250 students coming from 10 different counties and over 40 districts. The staff at the centers are dedicated educators who all work together to provide education and therapies to children aged 5 to 12 who've been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. In addition, they participate in the Early Intervention program (which services children birth to 3) and the district-based preschool program (which services children 3-5), provide diagnostic evaluations to people of all ages, coordinate regular and informative workshops for parents and providers in the community, and serve as consultants to districts and social skills groups. To say that they make a differ- ence in our community would be a monumental understatement. Social development is key A major portion of the ASD diag- nosis revolves around social inter- action. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, children affected by ASD have difficulty: • using communication for social purposes (sharing information and greeting). • following the rules of conversa- tion (different conversations based on location or partner). • interpreting non-verbal commu- nication or non-literal language. • making, keeping, and maintain- ing relationships. In order to help their students reach their full potential, the center is currently raising funds to fine-tune their playground at the Kingston campus, and add a new playground to their Ellenville campus. Being able to have access to a playground helps teach and strengthen vital social and motor skills. Although there were existing playgrounds, they were wearing out and were built around an older form of building codes. When I talked to David Juhren, the Development Coordinator for the Center for Spectrum Services, he stressed that the new playgrounds have been designed to promote more teamwork and cooperative play, utilizing structures such as see-saws that need multiple children to function. These playgrounds will also give the physical and occupational thera- pists another natural setting to help their students learn gross and fine motor and sensory skills. Melissa Moser, an employee of the Center for Spectrum Services and also a parent of a student, says her son Ollie was delighted about the new playground at the Kingston campus. "He would excitedly race with his friend down the connected slides and he loves the teeter totter, which has helped his social skills," she says. Gaining motor skills The students at the Center for Spectrum Services are benefiting not only from the social aspect of the playground, but also from the motor skills gained. A Center for Spectrum Services student enjoys the new playground slide at the Kingston campus.

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