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Play-based learning helps kids on autism spectrum

Guest post by Oliver Zornow
Community Engagement Manager
The Building for Kids Children’s Museum

The Building for Kids Children’s Museum aims to create an interactive and supportive environment for all families. Through the support of a number of community partners, including several funds within the Community Foundation, Spectrum Saturday and the Autism Accessibility Initiative have worked to provide meaningful play-based learning opportunities for families with children on the autism spectrum over the last seven years.

Spectrum Saturday is continuing to grow and, thanks in part to support from a recent grant from the Bright Idea Fund of the Community Foundation, it has incorporated a number of innovations including an expanded role for community partnerships.

“It is through community partnerships that Spectrum Saturday has become a true resource for families with children on the spectrum,” said Jarrad Bittner, executive director of the Children’s Museum. “The expertise of our partners helps us train our staff to adapt programs and service to children of all abilities. This not only creates a more inclusive and understanding environment for Spectrum Saturday, but every day, helping us serve our community better.”

The innovations were demonstrated during 2017 when Spectrum Saturdays involved a wide range of organizations, including the Fox Valley Autism Society, SOAR Fox Cities, the Appleton Public Library and the YMCA. The programming they produced is accessible and inclusive of children across the spectrum of sensory needs. This model builds awareness for families, especially those with newly diagnosed children, of the breadth of resources available throughout the community.

“Working in collaboration with The Building for Kids to help reach families that are raising kids with disabilities is such a productive way for WisconSibs to connect with their siblings in a relaxed and friendly community setting,” said Harriet Redman, executive director of WisconSibs. “Programs like Spectrum Saturday help reduce isolation for children with disabilities and their siblings, which helps build sibling relationships that will prove to be vital throughout their lives.”

Spectrum Saturday is offered the third Saturday of most months, 8:30-10 a.m. Admission to the museum is free at those times for children on the autism spectrum and their families. Remaining dates for 2017 are Nov. 18 and Dec. 9. Dates for 2018 include Jan. 20, Feb. 17, March 17, April 21, May 19, June 16, July 21, Aug. 18, September date TBD, Oct. 20, Nov. 17 and Dec. 8.

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