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Jumping Beans classes help children with autism

Jumping Beans classes help children with autism

More and more families are signing up for a uniquely-designed physical development programme for three to six year olds affected by autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Join In Jumping Beans is a collaboration between Jumping Beans East Auckland and the Children’s Autism Foundation. The classes are held weekly during term time in Ellerslie and Grey Lynn.

Elisa Slaat, Services Manager for the Children’s Autism Foundation decided to start up the programme to give kids affected by autism the opportunity to develop their motor and social skills.

“The classes are tailored to suit the children’s characteristics and abilities. The class sizes are small, and we provide activities in a safe environment with lots of extra support.”

One West Auckland resident was motivated to join her son to the programme for its sense of community. She says family members of children with ASD often miss out on seeing that they aren’t alone, and the children often miss out on opportunities to engage with peers.

“When you try going on a playdate with parents of typical children and they talk about their children’s achievements, it’s hard to find the common ground. It can be very isolating.”

She says Join In Jumping Beans offers a relaxed, non-judgmental space where parents can talk and learn from one another’s triumphs and struggles while children play and interact with others. “This is what I call ‘my park’, she adds.

Sue Blackwell, licensee and qualified trainer for Jumping Beans East Auckland has seen inspiring progress among the children who regularly attend. .

She recalls a young boy who had just joined the group. “When he first started, he would run around the circumference of the room, had no real focus or interest in the equipment, his climbing skills were not very safe and he would not be interested in joining us for circle time. A few weeks on, he has developed his agility, balance and coordination and we have been able to go on to teach him fundamental gym movements. He has built a relationship with myself and colleague Iris York whilst developing his social and emotional qualities, and is now willing to be part of a group.”

The key is providing order and predictability so that the children can do the activities meaningfully. As many children with autism are visual learners, visual strategies are featured in the programme. Picture guides are used to prompt the children to transition from one activity to the next.

The children gain skills that can then be applied to other settings, such as the home or kindergarten environment. This allows them to confront the challenges they face in the mainstream world with greater confidence.

Recent studies show that early intervention for toddlers with autism spectrum disorder helps improve their intellectual ability and reduces autism symptoms years after originally getting treatment.

Join In Jumping Beans is funded by the For Everyone Charitable Foundation, a registered New Zealand charity established in 2009 by Ali Williams, Dan Carter and Richie McCaw. The trio launched the Foundation to help small projects that make a large difference for people and their communities.

The group meets during term time, every Monday 9-10am at 198 Marua Road, Ellerslie and every Tuesday 1:15-2:15pm at the Grey Lynn Community Centre, 510 Richmond Road.

Financial assistance is provided to parents and caregivers. To find out more, please contact the Children’s Autism Foundation at 09 415 7406 or email enquiry@autism.org, or visit the website at www.autism.org.nz

ENDS

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