EATON — Earlier this year, Preble County Board of DD Superintendent Diane Knupp wrote a letter to Ohio State Senator Bill Beagle asking the senate to consider PLAY Project funding and training services in Ohio.
In part, the letter stated that “Preble County is committed to the intervention techniques. We have personally witnessed the growth in our children and believe we will reduce educational and long-term service needs through our early intervention with children.”
PLAY Project (Play and Language for Autistic Youngsters) is a program designed for children with autism and provides training to parents and educators. It is an evidence-based autism early intervention program.
Along with Senator Bill Beagle, the letter and PLAY Project caught the eye of Ohio Rep. Jeff Rezabek and Stephanie Garrett, Governor’s Council on DD. They traveled to Preble DD in June to meet with Diana Holderman, PLAY Consultant and Knupp. They had an opportunity to see the progress of Preble County children involved in PLAY and took their findings to the governor. It worked!
On June 30, Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed the budget bill that included funding for the PLAY Project in Preble County. An elated Knupp thanked Beagle, Rezabek and Garrett for their diligent work and continued support on behalf of families who have children diagnosed with autism.
PCBDD began implementing PLAY through its early intervention program in 2010 after participating in a demonstration project through the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (DODD). The seed money, made available by DODD, was aligned with Priority #9 in that it encourages partnerships between agencies to share resources; promote families, home-centered intervention and ultimately strives to reduce the lifelong impact of disabilities by responding to families’ needs early on.
The agency’s early intervention specialist, Becky Hampton, also supports the use of PLAY Project techniques for children age 0-3 age and their families.
PCBDD has received overwhelming positive feedback from professionals and families involved in the program. Hampton has found the training and intervention strategies to be valuable and the model to be practical and effective. Parents have told the agency how much the program has changed their relationship with their child and has helped their child to grow.
During the 2014-15 school year, PCBDD participated in a DODD state pilot program, Teaching PLAY, which is the implementation of PLAY in a preschool classroom setting. PCBDD continues to receive positive feedback from professionals and families involved with the program. This fall, Eaton Community Schools, National Trail School District and Preble Shawnee Preschool are partnering with PCBDD to move PLAY Project into the kindergarten classrooms.
“I applaud our local schools for taking this important step forward to implement PLAY Project,” Knupp said. “This is very important for our children because as they leave preschool, they, along with their families, will receive ongoing supports.”
Hollingsworth East Elementary Principal Pam Friesel said: “We are very excited to offer this opportunity to both our teachers and other staff who support special needs students, along with the progress it will help our students make in their school and home setting. We truly appreciate the willingness of the Preble County Board of Developmental Disabilities to help the district provide this specialized program to our staff, students, and families.”
Funding received from the state will be used to hire two part-time PLAY tutors. One tutor will be located at East Elementary School in Eaton while the other tutor will split their time between National Trail and Preble Shawnee preschool.
Katie Kurtz, PLAY Consultant, led a two-day PLAY training session for principals, teachers, aides and tutors at East Elementary in mid-August.
“Our goal with PLAY Project is to reach as many children and families as possible,” Kurtz said. “Preble County is ahead of the curve and it is exciting to be a part of the energy around this program. It is my hope that Preble County’s dedication to PLAY in homes and classrooms will set an example for other Ohio counties to follow.”
Knupp added that she believes this is one of the first classroom demonstration projects of its kind in Ohio.