SNAP for special needs kids

PLAYQUEST FUNSTERS: Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell, Francesca Esposito-Rose, Eliza-Mae Matthews, Darren Bell and Ashton Matthews.
PLAYQUEST FUNSTERS: Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell, Francesca Esposito-Rose, Eliza-Mae Matthews, Darren Bell and Ashton Matthews.

A COLOURFUL and fun play environment that's also geared to children with special needs has been set up in Lismore at PlayQuest.

A once-weekly SNAP (Special Needs At PlayQuest) session will cater primarily for disabled and special needs children and their families. For many parents of special needs children, a simple social outing can be a harrowing affair, according PlayQuest owner/manager, Darren Bell.

"These children generally require extra-vigilant supervision, and any unusual behaviour can invoke shame and guilt from other judgemental parents," Darren explained.

"I've been shocked to discover that many parents in our community would prefer to stay home, rather than suffer the harsh judgement of others because of the misunderstood behaviour of their children."

PlayQuest is a fun place for kids to play, with bouncing castles, structures on two levels, a pit of balls to roll around in and lots of other games - as well as providing snack and coffee bar facilities for parents.

SNAP sessions offer lots of extras for special-needs children, including a kinaesthetic tactile board, with touchy-feely things to brush against and explore.

That's the first part of a three-stage program to bring added sensory interest to SNAP sessions at PlayQuest. In the coming week, there'll be pet therapy with some cute little bunny rabbits, and a sensory garden with interesting scents and textures for the children to experience.

SNAP at PlayQuest is getting a seal of approval from workers in the field of children with special needs.

A Casino Neighbourhood Centre after-school care worker, Graeme, said it was hard to access places to take children such as those he cares for, who may have Asperger's Syndrome, autism, Down syndrome or other conditions.

"This space created by PlayQuest is extremely important for their socialisation skills," Graeme said.

"They get to experience the same things as other kids, which is great for their growth and development."

Darren also invited the staff of Summerland Early Intervention to work with him to make the space as user-friendly as possible.

"Darren's great way with kids and families, and his sense of community, make the place a very friendly place to be," Summerland Early Intervention's Miriam O'Grady said.

SNAP sessions will be held on Wednesday afternoons from 3-6pm, during which time PlayQuest will be closed to the general public. Siblings of special needs children are welcome for a family-inclusive time.

Phone 6622 5721 or go to www.playquest

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