Outside the therapy box | SteamboatToday.com

Outside the therapy box

Children with special needs excel in new summer program

Ben James, left, Erin Murphy and Blane Hoza learn pilates and work on coordination skills at the Steamboat Pilates and Fitness Center earlier this summer. The program is for children with autism and other neuro-developmental disorders.
Courtesy Photo

— Blane Hoza has played with frogs, tie-dyed T-shirts and made new friends this summer.

Blane, who suffers from a neurodevelopmental disorder, has been participating in a seven-week-long therapeutic summer program for children ages five to seven who have autism or other neurodevelopmental disorders.

“He’s had the chance to continue to work on some of his individual goals, but also to really socialize with other kids that are his age. Some have similar backgrounds and some don’t,” said Michelle Hoza, Blane’s mother. “It’s been remarkable for him to be around other kids.”

Hoza has seen her son make progress at home, too. His behavior has been more consistent and he is able to stay more focused.

“As a parent, this program has been really organized, and Beth (Staunton) has come up with individual goals and gives us weekly progress updates in terms of meeting these goals,” Hoza said. “And they give us ideas as parents to bring some of the techniques into the home.”

The techniques used in the program will be passed on to Blane’s kindergarten teacher in the fall. Program leaders also use picture schedules so the children are confident about what will happen during the course of the day.

“It is a very structured program so the kids know what to expect,” Hoza said. “And it’s a neat thing for this to be in our community, where we don’t have to travel three hours away to have that opportunity.”

The program was made possible by two $25,000 grants awarded to the Yampa Valley Autism Program and a $2,000 grant from the Yampa Valley Heal-thcare Foundation. The program recently received an additional $500 from Wells Fargo Bank to use for this program and similar programs in the future.

Beth Staunton, program director and occupational therapist at SportsMed, has been running the program with Erin Murphy and several community volunteers. She said it has been a great opportunity for them to help the children work on gross and fine motor, language and sensory integration activities outside of the typical therapy setting.

“The inclusion activities take place around town at places like the Bud Werner Memorial Library, Steamboat Pilates and Fitness Studio, Amaze’N Steamboat, Ben and Jerry’s and, next week, we are going to the gondola,” Staunton said. “On the days we are not doing inclusion, we take them to Humble Ranch.”

The activities are designed to motivate and support the children’s individual special needs, and the children have exceeded all of Staunton’s expectations.

“I’ve put them in areas that are challenging and difficult, and they have developed relationships within the group of kids with special needs and with their typical peers,” she said. “And I’m really impressed by the amount of community support. It is so important in such a small town because we need to work together to make things happen.”

– To reach Allison Plean, call 871-4204 or e-mail aplean@steamboatpilot.com

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