Adaptive movement center helps people with disabilities

Adaptive movement center helps people with disabilities

Image Credit: Teri Stein

A collaboration between Farrah Raines of Uhrichsville, an occupational therapy assistant and licensed massotherapist, and Lacey Herbert-Stephen of the Lacey Performing Arts Center dance studio led to the formation of an entirely new facility based on providing adaptive movement classes and other activities for people with developmental disabilities.

At a recent class, the benefits to those participating was evident. There were a lot of smiles all around.

“I just think it’s a safe space. They can just be them, express themselves and make friends,” said Carie Kline, the assistant class instructor.

Raines keeps the class interesting with different themes each week, the participants like the surprise and excitement of something different. But some things are the same too.

“We always start with the ‘Hello’ song. They’re familiar with that and the ‘Stretch’ song. Then we end with something familiar, which is the ‘Goodbye’ song,” Raines said.

The class can be very high energy, so Raines likes to bring in some less strenuous games in the middle of all that activity.

Raines takes requests from the children on the types of activities and games they want to do.

They love games. The rat tail game that we’re doing, it was the idea of one of the little girls. She came to me a couple weeks ago about it, which is great,” Raines said adding that she told the girl they would use the game in an animal themed class that was coming up.

Empowering the participants to be themselves and to be a leader is important as part of the class.

“The girl actually explained to everybody how to do the game, which is great, because she’s usually real kind of quiet. She’ll back away, and then she’ll join in whenever she feels comfortable. And for her to explain that to everybody, that that was huge. And it was great because it gave her that ownership,” Raines said. “She was proud, you could just see it on her face, it was really rewarding.”

Socialization is as much a part of the class as exercise, and the games add skills like patience while waiting to take your turn.

Families can wait in the lobby and watch what their child is doing in class on two screens.

“The families are able to meet each other. So, I feel like beyond the children, I think that there’s a lot going on for the families to say we’re not the only ones out here,” Kline said.

Raines also leads an adult class. She is especially pleased with the progress of one of her students in the that class.

“The student is just kind of a serious looking guy, but he joined in. We were doing the circle dance and that was the first time I saw him just light up. He smiled the entire time,” Raines said. “That’s what this class is all about, I just got goosebumps.”

The class is adapted for the students, its not a typical class where they have to conform to what others are doing. Students are encouraged to be creative in their movements because it’s their class. Raines and Kline are just the facilitators.

“It’s fun to see them come out of their shell. They just are who they are and very comfortable,” Kline said.

Parents have said they are happy to offer their child with special needs the opportunity to participate in activities outside of school. Individuals could feel left out when they see their typically developing siblings participating in sports or dance in the evening, but there is nothing for them to do.

Raines has been offering the classes since January at the Lacey PAC facility, at 117 S. Broadway in New Philadelphia. The response has been so good that the dance studio part of the business will be moving soon to another location and the current facility will become solely a non-profit adaptive movement center aimed at providing activities for people with disabilities to have something to do in the evenings and on weekends.

Raines also leads a class on for ages 15 to adult on Monday evenings.

The monthly tuition for the individuals to participate has so far been covered by donations for the season from January to May. The organization will continue to encourage donations and apply for grants to cover the costs for the individuals who could benefit from their services.

The space will be relaxing and fun.

“Every room will be filled with sensory equipment. It’ll be a place that families can leave their children and adults with special needs,” Herbert-Stephen said. “And while they’re here, they’ll be doing activities, or we’ll have entertainment.”

It will be valuable time to interact with their peers. The facility also plans to have movie nights, game nights, girl’s night spa, other activities that promote healthy living, a rock wall, and outings to visit local shops and parks. They’ll also be a kitchen area with a refrigerator and microwave for snack preparation. A couple of smaller rooms will be turned into dark rooms with rocking chairs for total relaxation.

“It’s just going to be a way for parents and guardians to have a reprieve, have a breath of fresh air, to go out and do some stuff on their own while their loved ones are safe,” Herbert-Stephen said.

There are no centers like this in Tuscarawas County, with the closest being in Cleveland and Columbus.

The supplies needed to turn the building into an adaptive movement center are very expensive, so the Lacey PAC plans on holding fundraisers to connect with people in the community to make the dream a reality. They are also looking for volunteers to help at the center.

Forty-four people with disabilities have been participating off and on since January.

As the mother of a 3-year-old child with a disability, Herbert-Stephen understands what needs to be done to make the facility safe. She felt alone when doctors told her about her son’s disability which includes autism.

Herbert-Stephen feels the connections other parents build will be important.

“In just the last two months, I have found where to take my son to get speech lessons in Canton, that a lot of families have done. He’s met four different 3-year-olds with the same diagnosis, that they’ll take class together. I’ve become good friends with the moms,” Herbert-Stephen said. “I have somebody I can look at for hope, it’s been amazing.”

The center will be able to help those served in a number of ways as they would also like to teach life skills like how to open a bank account, helping to select the activities that they want provided, and even writing a newsletter. The programs will be adapted for them.

“It’s somewhere they can grow and have purpose,” Herbert-Stephen said.

For more information call Lacey PAC at 330-340-5917.

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