A PLACE TO PLAY Activities for children with autism around the region provide opportunities for fun and learning. By Marie Elium
or most parents, the first time their child performs on a stage is both exciting and a little bit scary. Kacie Wielgus Buzzard remembers that feeling. Her daughter, Caroline, who is non-verbal and autistic, was the only child with special needs in her preschool. The annual spring ballet performance was coming up and she wanted her daughter to join the others on stage. However, there was a fear that Caroline would walk off during the performance.
Kacie Wielgus Buzzard’s daughter, Caroline, joined her classmates in the annual Spring ballet performance.
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Buzzard and her husband advocated for their daughter to participate. The solution was simple: a teacher sat in a chair next to her during the performance. “The look on Caroline’s face when the curtain was raised was one of pure joy and my heart nearly leapt out of my chest, I was so proud,” Buzzard says. “It is not always about finding programs that are specifically developed for kids on the spectrum or for kids with special needs; sometimes the right answer is to find a way for your child with special needs to participate right alongside their typically developing peers.”
Socializing — whether rehearsing a dance, learning a hobby or just hanging out with others — can be daunting for a lot of us, but for children with autism, it can take careful planning. Activities outside of school are important for all kids, not just those with autism, says Terri McIntee, family and community intervention specialist with the Cuyahoga County Educational Service Center. “It’s a pretty typical thing for any child to be connected to the community,” she says. “They CONTINUED ON PAGE 40