Newswise — Kathy Doody, an assistant professor of in the Exceptional Education Department at SUNY Buffalo State who also has a teenage son with autism, understands the importance of play for children with autism disorder syndrome (ASD). She helped create “Au-some Evenings,” a monthly night out at a children’s museum where parents can bring their children with autism to play together in a safe setting.
Parents who have children with autism often feel ostracized when taking the family to a public setting where strangers do not understand their children’s behavior, Doody said. And sometimes that results in a fractioned family when only one sibling has ASD. One parent takes the typically developing child one place; the other stays home with the child with ASD.
To help remedy this, Doody worked with the program director of the Buffalo Women and Children’s Hospital Autism Center to create Au-some Evenings at the Explore & More Museum in East Aurora, New York. Since its inception in September 2012, Doody said about 40 adults and 40 children have attended each week. “It has been extremely well-received; families continue to comment on feeling welcome, secure, accepted, and understood,” she said. “Additionally, families enjoy connecting with one another and forming bonds. Parents frequently tell us they don't feel quite so alone after they have left one of our events and comment on the warmth they feel. The event has fostered a sense of community and belonging for many families.”
Doody also is leading a study looking into the perspectives of Buffalo State teacher candidates — asking them how valuable they find working directly with children and families of ASD in recreational and community-based programs.
“My premise is that teacher preparation programs should embed more authentic opportunities into our preparatory programs for special education teachers,” she said, “which allow them to work with children and families outside of a classroom setting.”
Doody can speak about the importance of play for children along the autism spectrum, as well as share her personal experience parenting a child with an autism diagnosis. She can be reached at (716) 878-5318 or firstname.lastname@example.org.