Where the idea came from…and the reasoning behind the concept
From the Founder:
First, I’ll start with a few of the most commonly asked questions:
Do you have a relative with Autism/special needs? What got you interested in this particular field? What’s your background/experience?
Honestly, I had no knowledge or particular interest in Autism until I was introduced to my first few clients with Autism. I don’t have anyone with Autism in my immediate family and I didn’t have any friends with Autism or special needs growing up. I went to the University of Tampa and graduated with a BA in Psychology with minors in Criminology and Spanish. My career goal was to work with kids in the juvenile justice system. When I moved back home to PA, I got my first job as a Therapeutic Staff Support and worked on behavioral interventions with kids who had a wide range of behavioral difficulties. I was given my first two cases with kids with Autism about 6 months into the field. I had no idea what Autism was and no idea what to expect.
I learned from the kids themselves by observing them, interacting with them, playing with them, following their cues, and helping them reach their goals. They were each so intelligent and so unique in their own ways. They taught me many life lessons and helped me grow both personally and professionally.
I learned from the families who knew their kids the best. I learned right on the front lines the daily struggles and challenges: communication difficulties, behavioral issues, school/IEP concerns, ISPs, health issues, social events and even just community outings. I learned that there was not enough support for families, especially for single parent households (Divorce rate skyrockets to 80% with a child with special needs). I learned there were a very large number of families who were not receiving information, resources, and funding because there was no place to go for the information. I took it upon myself to help share the information that I learned from other families about the many systems, what was available, how to get it, where to go, who to talk to, etc.
9 out of 10 people will stop trying to look for resources/programs/services/funding if they are told that none exist. At one point, as a professional, I was told that a certain service was not available by another professional who “knew” and I stopped looking. I was fortunate enough to work with a parent who was one of the “1 out of 10”. My mind was completely blown by how many resources are available but hidden. It truly is a full time job because of the hurdles and obstacles due to misinformation about available services, programs, and funding. It is mentally, physically, and emotionally draining.
I learned the challenges and the frustrations that come with raising a child with special needs but I was also fortunate enough to be able to see a glimpse of the “light at the end of the tunnel”.
I learned what was possible…from both the kids and the parents.
Currently, I am in the process of obtaining my M.S. in Psychology (est. graduation Sept. 2015) and continue to work with individuals with Autism and special needs one on one. My goal is to develop Live Learn & Play as a safe, caring environment for families and meaningful resource for parents and professionals.