P.L.A.Y aids autistic children

This week marked the second of five presentations in the Weyerhaeuser Colloquium Series.  This week’s topic was “The Play Project –a Home Based Program for Children with Autism” presented by Dawn Heino in the Tahoma Room, of Commencement Hall.

One of the first of its kind, P.L.A.Y is an intensive developmental intervention program focused on promoting and developing social interaction in children with autism.  P.L.A.Y, is unique due to the fact that it caters to each child’s individual needs, based upon the child’s current stage of development.  Another unique part of P.L.A.Y is its mission: The P.L.A.Y. Project’s mission is to train a global network of pediatric professionals to deliver an evidence-based, low-cost, intensive developmental intervention to families of young children with autism spectrum disorders (www.playproject.org).

“We want them [the children] to be able to socialize normally, like us,” P.L.A.Y representative Heino said while explaining the project.  Richard Solomon, M.D, founded the P.L.A.Y Project out of Ann Arbor, Michigan in 2001 in response to the lack of intensive early intervention services for families of children with autism. The Project is a practical, cost effective approach to early autism intervention. The P.L.A.Y Project’s vision is that all parents will be supported in developing a joyous relationship with their children with autism spectrum disorders in a way that will help each child reach their full potential (www.playproject.org).

“[It’s amazing] how quickly the children [participating in The P.L.A.Y Project] improve,” said freshman Samantha Harrison.  When asked if she would recommend the Weyerhaeuser Series to others she said that she would. “Definitely.  I think it gives a good or different perspective.  Hearing it from someone doing it right now is really important.”

The P.L.A.Y Project has helped thousands of families in close to 30 states and 7 countries including, Israel, Turkey, Italy, Spain, Venezuela and several others.  As Heino points out, “[The Project’s goal is to] try to be as culturally considerate as possible.” For example in a house where the family only speaks Spanish P.L.A.Y would want to find a translator or a trained professional in order to be able to communicate better with the families.

Currently in Washington the only P.L.A.Y Project is at the MultiCare Good Samaritan Children’s Therapy Unit on Puyallup.  A second year Occupational Therapy ßßstudent, Elizabeth Andrews said, “I wanna work with kids.  I knew the rates of autism were going up, but I was wasn’t aware of how steep an increase it was.”  She too recommended the Weyerhaeuser Series, “I love them, whatever the theme [for the lectures] is if you wanna work with those [kinds of] people then you should come.”

Overall the lecture proved very moving and captivating.  If you haven’t gone to one yet, check them out, they are well worth it.  If you would like to know more about The P.L.A.Y Project you can find them on the web at www.playproject.org.  In the words of Diane Heino “Never underestimate the power of play!”