By Jen Erez
Baltimore Jewish Abilities Alliance Coordinator
Many families are struggling with meeting the needs of their children with various disabilities. The number of children diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) has grown tremendously over the last several years. All day long our body is using different senses whether we are eating, touching or hearing something. A person with SPD has sensory signals that don’t get organized into appropriate responses which makes it extremely difficult for a person to respond to information that they receive through their senses. This affects the person’s ability to complete everyday tasks, which may impact a child in negative ways. These impacts include behavioral problems, anxiety, failure in school and poor motor planning along with various other impacts.
With the prevalence of this disorder, the Baltimore Jewish Abilities Alliance introduced a workshop to teach parents who have a child dealing with these challenges how to meet their child’s individual needs. Recently, the BJAA, together with Pathfinders for Autism, hosted a Sensory Integration Workshop. Ida Zelaya, President of Sensory Street, talked about signs, symptoms and strategies of this disorder.
As part of the workshop, the parents made sensory products using household items to take home with them. Ida brought balloons to fill with rice, flour and beans and explained how all children have different sensory needs. One child might like the feel of the rice while another child might like the flour. While making these balloon fidgets, one parent commented, “My son can’t sit and do his homework. After two minutes he is jumping up out of his seat. It is such a relief to see that I have options to try with my son.”
In addition to having a workshop to teach parents how to work with their children, the BJAA is having a “sensory friendly concert” at the Gordon Center for the Performing Arts on November 3 from 11:15 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Families can enjoy carnival games prior to the show from 10 to 11 a.m.
Unlike traditional concerts or performances, these shows keep the setting laid-back and comfortable. The lights are low and the rows are half-empty to give kids plenty of room to move around. There are none of the typical concert hall rules. Rather, kids are encouraged to clap their hands, sing, yell, dance, run around the room or just sit and listen. The volume will be lower, ear plugs will be available and an interpreter will be present. Trained staff assists with accommodations.
One parent received the flyer about the upcoming sensory friendly concert and called to say how thankful she was that there was something her child could attend. She explained how it is so difficult having a child with these challenges. “We can’t take him to a lot of places because people just stare at us when he can’t sit still or stay quiet. We are very much looking forward to an opportunity where he won’t be the different one.”
For more information on the upcoming Sensory Friendly Performance on November 3 at the Gordon Center, contact Jen Erez at firstname.lastname@example.org or 410-559-3613.
The Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore (JCC) was recognized by Slingshot as one of the most inspiring and innovative organizations in the North American Jewish Community. Read more about it at ejewishphilanthropy.com/introducing-the-slingshot-class-of-2013-2014/.