Sophia Rogers, 9, her brother Jack, 6, and their grandfather, Don Rogers of Mentor, Ohio, check out the Special Kids Therapy Playroom. The box Sophia holds controls the color of the light in the room, including the color of the fiber-optic cables hanging around her; the room has a reddish cast because the box’s red side is on top.
THE BLADE/JETTA FRASER
A new Autism Center seeks to be a place of support and intervention for families and children.
The center at ProMedica Toledo Children’s Hospital combines six autism-related organizations under one roof at 2040 W. Central Ave. It held a community open house Sunday afternoon to welcome people to the site.
A child jumped in a pit of balls and other children explored a sensory play area equipped with special lights, technology, and a rock wall in space used by the nonprofit agency Special Kids Therapy. Down the hall, visitors checked out the Toledo Children’s Hospital Autism Early Learning Program classrooms that serve children ages 1 to 6.
Leaders want the facility, a former day care center, to connect families to autism resources that cover a range of ages and needs.
“We’ve always had really good programs and services, but they’ve always been really disjointed,” said Catina Harding, executive director for the Great Lakes Collaborative for Autism, one of the organizations located in the nearly 10,000-square-foot site.
Grouping multiple services and agencies in one spot “shows the community we are serious” about autism resources, she said. Ms. Harding said a roughly $1.5 million fund-raising effort helped prepare the building and set up the early learning program.
Some agencies have been up and running at the site for months or longer, while others are just getting started there.
The Special Kids Therapy playroom will offer a free place for children to explore and play, with hours to be determined in coming weeks, said program director Michelle Votaw. Kate Schwartz of Point Place stopped by the playroom Sunday and plans to return with her two children who are on the autism spectrum.
“This could be a very calming space for them,” Mrs. Schwartz said. “We’ll come here very often...; this will be an amazing location that my kids can stay safe in.”
Autism is a neurobiological condition with no cure, but intervention, especially at an early age, can provide big benefits, said Ms. Harding. Autism affects people differently, including communication abilities and interaction with others.
The Self Reliance Center has operated on the site for several years and works with young people ages 12 to 22 on the autism spectrum. Director Sandy Suboticki said the summer and after-school program offers recreational opportunities such as swimming and bowling and works on daily living skills and social interactions such as how to greet someone. Ashley Beckford, 14, of Toledo, participates in the program several times a week and does puzzles, among other activities. She and her family were among the visitors to stop by the Autism Center during Sunday’s open house.
“The important thing is she likes it,” said her father Walter Beckford.
Other organizations located at the center include iTaalk Autism Foundation and Harbor.
Contact Vanessa McCray at email@example.com or 419-724-6065.