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Monday, February 12, 2018
What do bright colors, movement and laughter have in common? That was the scene on February 8 when Maura Davis’ and Kaitlyn Tesiero’s classes visited We Rock The Spectrum sensory gym. Their students are part of the elementary BEARS program. BEARs stands for BOCES Educating Autistic and Related Disorders Students.
During their visit to We Rock The Spectrum, the students had the opportunity to use a trampoline, exercise balls, monkey bars, rope ladders, multiple types of swings, a balance beam and a mini zip line. All are adapted to be safe and age/skill appropriate. The students also practiced fine motor skills playing on bead sets, puzzles, wooden trains and playing dress up in fun costumes.
Physical Therapist Babette Furman, who was one of the many staff overseeing the gym visit, says it was the perfect outing for these students because children on autistic spectrum love movement. The enclosed swings at the gym can be calming. The equipment is great for balance and vestibular treatment. The zip line allows for stress release and joint and body relaxation. The trampoline helps with building leg and core strength.
“Movement can be very organizing for them,” says Furman. “Some children find it very comforting to have a swinging motion. Kids seek out what they need, as therapists, we guide them.”
The students were also accompanied by a certified social worker, a speech pathologist, an occupational therapist, and eight other teacher aides. All of the staff that normally help the students in their specialized classroom throughout the school day, were at the gym to assist.
There was considerable preparation in advance of the visit. The BEARS program social worker and assistive technology teacher went to the gym about a month in advance to review safety and took photos of all of the equipment at the gym. When they returned to school they created a social story, a chart that helps the students to prepare for their adventure. During class time teachers and students reviewed expectations for the trip, what was appropriate behavior, how they would ride on a bus, what kinds of activities would be at the gym. That way the gym was familiar to the students and they were set up for success.
It seems the preparations paid off. Squeals of laughter and joy were heard during the entire visit.
Eva Millard, owner of We Rock the Spectrum Sensory Gym, is an occupational therapist herself. She says she started the business because she wanted to have a place for children with and without disabilities to have fun, play and learn from one another.
“Because they are having so much fun, they don’t realize that they are working on their strength,” says Millard.
Mary Baker, an occupational therapist who works with the students said, “it was a wonderful way for our students to practice community skills.”
It was a joyful day that will not only help students in the future, but it also exposed them to a safe place where they can return with their families.
Teacher Kaitlyn Tesiero with her students at the gym.
One of the students on the enclosed swing.
This little astronaut felt like she was flying.
More photos in PHOTO GALLERY