Au-Some Evenings Offer Sensory-Friendly Fun for Children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder

Updated: 1/4/2013

First and Only Local Program of its Kind Developed by Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo and Explore & More Children’s Museum


One of the many children playing during a recent Au-Some Evening.

Sensory-friendly fun for children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder and their families, called Au-Some Evenings, is the first and only program of its kind in Western New York to provide recreational activities for these children to learn and interact with their peers and other children.

Nearly 100 people including 30 children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder attended November’s Au-Some Evening at the Explore & More Children’s Museum.  This unique program is offered monthly and was developed in collaboration by The Children’s Guild Foundation Autism Spectrum and Disorder Center at Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo, the Center for Autism Support and Education (CASE) and the museum.  The evenings are offered free of charge thanks to generous sponsorship from Hodgson Russ and include access to the Museum’s Imagination Playground.

“Based on parent groups and several interactions in our community, we have learned that one of the biggest challenges for families with children on the autism spectrum is finding recreational opportunities where their children can learn, interact with others and be “themselves” in a safe and understanding social environment,” said Michelle Hartley-McAndrew, M.D., Neurologist and Clinical Professor of Pediatric Neurology, University at Buffalo and Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo.  “The Au-Some Evenings give these children and families an opportunity to address this need in a way previously not available to them.”

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are lifelong, neurobehavioral disorders that impact a child’s behavioral, social and communication skills.  Current statistics report that 1 in 88 children have an ASD, including 1 in 54 boys and 1 in 252 girls.  There are five disorders that vary in symptoms and severity from severe to high-functioning. 

“Au-Some Evenings at Explore & More is a fantastic opportunity for children with autism spectrum disorders to play and interact with each other in a safe and engaging atmosphere,” said Joseph Borgisi, whose child is diagnosed with Autism.  “It allows us as parents the opportunity to spend quality fun time with our children and also connect with other families with whom we share some commonality.  Au-Some Evenings have been a wonderful experience for our family!”

The Au-Some Evenings initiative began with a carefully thought-out staff training, program enhancement, creation of a social narrative to help children prepare for a visit and development of new, monthly “Au-Some Evenings” dedicated to providing children with ASDs learning and social opportunities with other children and their families. 

“In addition to breaking new ground in our region by providing special museum experiences to children on the Autism Spectrum, Au-Some Evenings is a program that touches our hearts at Explore & More,” said Barbara Park Leggett, Executive Director of the Explore & More Children's Museum located in East Aurora, NY.  “Explore & More is where fun and learning play together, and we want to make sure that all children can immerse themselves in our exhibits.  We want kids to be kids, learning and exploring as only they can!  One child may be learning about gravity at our Make it Go exhibit, while another may be designing a building or learning about cultures around the world.”

Explore & More provides the programs and exhibits for creative play and learning, and the specialists from Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo provide the expertise in working with children on the Autism Spectrum.  These specialists trained the Explore & More staff and are researching ways it can improve the exhibits to best meet the needs of all children which is especially important in the development of Explore & More’s future museum at Canalside in Buffalo.

Graduate students in the Exceptional Education program at Buffalo State College also benefit from the Au-Some Evenings as they have the opportunity to volunteer and obtain hands-on, practical experience working with children with ASDs and their families.

The Au-Some Evenings are free of charge and open to families and special friends of children with autism spectrum disorders.  To accommodate people in a safe and fun environment, spaces are limited so reservations are essential and can be made by calling Peg at (716) 332-4170.  To learn more about the program and view the social narrative, please visit: www.exploreandmore.org.

The Children’s Guild Foundation Autism Spectrum Disorder Center at Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo is the only medically-based, multidisciplinary center for evaluation and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders in Western New York.  For more information, go online at www.wchob.org/autism.

Explore & More Children’s is a non-profit organization that provides an environment for creative play and learning through hands-on exhibits, activities and programs that spark creativity, curiosity and imagination.  www.exploreandmore.org.

Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo, a Kaleida Health facility and teaching hospital for the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, is the regional center for comprehensive and state-of-the-art pediatric, neonatal, perinatal and obstetrical services in Western New York and beyond.  For more information, please go online at www.wchob.org.

 

Additional information available: http://www.buffalonews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20130104/CITYANDREGION/130109706/1109