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Pleasantville Organization Develops Playful Solution for Autistic Kids

Sensory playground will offer benefits for all children.

Playgrounds have come a long way in recent years. But the innovative playground of the future is about to arrive—in October, to be exact.

Access Nursing, headquartered in Pleasantville, is a comprehensive provider of professional health-care personnel that is about to usher playgrounds—and cognitive performance—into the 21st century.   

Its project, dubbed WeeZee—a world of “Yes, I Can”—includes the development of a state of the art facility that will include a creative sensory playground intended to enrich children’s social, athletic and intellectual development through sensory adventure.   

A brainstorm of their organization, WeeZee is founded on clinical research based on the occupational therapy world and sensory integration.

Access Nursing founder and president Louise Weadock explained, “We started this business years ago out of our apartment in Manhattan, when my daughter was diagnosed with an autistic-related disorder.”

After driving all over the country to obtain the resources to get that she needed Weadock, observed 75 percent of therapy time was spent desensitizing Shannon.

Weadock expanded, “Desensitization should be taken out of the doctor’s office and put in the playground"—by doing so, time with the doctor could be put to alternative use.

She continued, “Rather than waiting until the therapist's office to start therapy defensiveness, beginning the routine earlier will enhance performance.”

Weadock likened the intended gym regimen to that experienced by adults at a health club.

“Rather than using a trainer, an initial screening—sensory assessment—would determine the likes and dislikes of the child," she said.

Added Weadock, “Like a fitness routine outlined by a trainer, the assessment would lead to a particular ‘sensory diet’ or ‘sensory regime’. The kids would go to WeeZee to work on cognitive development, social relationships, and physical endurance."

The assessment can take any time throughout the therapy but “should be at least quarterly, for self-checking,” she said.

While the facility will greatly enrich the performance of children living with symptoms of Autism, ADHD, Turrets and Asperger’s Weadock pointed out, “All children would do well with this type of therapy…if the child can get into a gym at ages one, two or three you may not see the learning issues that start occurring at four, five and six.”

Weadock isn’t developing the concept on her own.  She has engaged the able assistance of talented local teens, employed as summer interns, to help.

Recent graduates Jessica Colton and Shannon Rowe—Weadock’s daughter—are part of a five-person internship team that work in the project’s “war room” to design the new facility. The interns are charged with developing the new space.

Colton and Rowe have visited and researched a variety of sensory gyms and museums, as well as hosting discussions with therapists, to determine what was working best or the kids.

The most effective therapies will be incorporated into the new spac—and under one roof.

Colton explained, “We’re coming up with ideas for the sensory gym, buzzwords for the website that that best describe what we’re offering…going to different places to shop for equipment that we would like to use and that would be interesting to kids for all ages.”

Rowe finds the work particularly rewarding, “I’m learning more of what I had to go through…I remember what I did as a kid…but didn’t understand why we were doing it or how it helped. Now, it’s interesting to see how differently someone can develop from a facility like WeeZee. When I was younger there weren’t that many facilities out there, so we had to travel from New York to Washington, D.C...in and out of so many different places and doctor’s offices. “   

“After the internship, I’m probably going to study to be an occupational therapist and help kids with the leaning issues that I have,” she added.

Interns Paul Rowe, Colin O'Rourke and Colin Coogan aslo play a major role in WeeZee by developing the design, visuals and musical therapy components for the gym.

But, the facility will provide much than an indoor sensory playground.

The planned facility will include 10,000-square-feet of space with sections devoted to each of the senses. Therapy areas include, for example, a wind and rain room. How about a mosh pit and trampoline? A café, catering to the sense of taste, will be available as well and even a dedicated  place for parents–The ZEN Den. The den will be a spa-like area for relaxing...and learning.

There will also be 20 therapy offices, co-located in the facility, available for lease to various practitioners.

“This is going to be big...it’s the next McDonalds," quipped Weadock.

The facility is scheduled to open in October 2011 and will be located on Labriola Ct. in Armonk. Membership will initially be limited to 400 familes. More information can be obtained at www.weezeeworld.com

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