Autism Awareness during the Holidays

For most kids, Christmas is magical and exciting.  Parties, gifts, sweets, visits from friends and relatives, music, games…  And especially their yearly visit to Santa.  What is normally a fun family outing to a local mall can easily turn into a very challenging experience for families of children with autism.  Loud music, crowds, waiting in line, big open spaces, meeting new people, and bright lights can all be triggers for people with sensory processing issues like autism. 

 Fortunately, companies are starting to take notice and make accommodations for autistic children to make their holidays a little brighter.  Malls across the country have started hosting “Quiet Santa” visits so children and their families can enter the mall before it opens and visit with Santa without the crowds, noise, and overstimulation that can make this experience miserable for kids with an Autism Spectrum Disorder.  An autism-friendly children’s gym in Los Angeles recently hosted an incredible “Sensitive Santa” event and a mall in Virginia Beach recently hosted a free event for children with autism. 

 Many “Santas” across the country have also been gaining attention for their sensitivity.  Recently, a Santa from Michigan was praised for his kindness – read the full article here.

 For more information about sensory-friendly holiday events in our community, such as performances of The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol, visit the SPED Child and Teen special needs recreation web site.  You can also visit Autism Speaks for a complete list of autism-friendly “Caring Santa” events at malls across the country. 

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Hoyt Donation 2015

Dick and Rick Hoyt Contribute $15,000 to Venture

Funds Will Support People with Disabilities Across the State

Sturbridge – Venture Community Services, one of the Commonwealth’s leading providers of innovative human services received a $15,000 donation from the Hoyt Foundation.  Hundreds of people with developmental disabilities supported by Venture will now have greater access to the opportunities they deserve thanks to this contribution.

Dick and Rick Hoyt, the famed father-son running team, made the donation to Mike Hyland, Venture President & CEO.  “We are thankful to have the support of The Hoyt Foundation,” said Hyland. “Their continued partnership with our agency speaks to their generosity and their commitment to people living with disabilities

Earlier this year, Venture named and dedicated their new multi-sensory environment to Rick Hoyt.  The room was constructed from funds The Hoyt Foundation donated the previous year.

The Hoyt Foundation, founded by father-and-son team Dick and Rick Hoyt in 1989, helps build the individual character, self-confidence and self-esteem of America’s disabled young people through inclusion in all facets of daily life, including in family and community activities, especially sports, at home, in schools and in the workplace. Dick and Rick have run more than 1,000 road races together all across the world, including 30 Boston Marathons, inspiring countless people to achieve what they previously believed was impossible.

Venture Community Services is committed to providing compassionate, person-centered services that assist individuals and families in reaching their goals. What began as an organization with two small group homes has grown into one of the largest human service providers in Massachusetts, and with almost 700 employees, one of the largest employers in the Sturbridge area. Venture encourages independence through a continuum of support which includes community residential services, day programs, supported employment, transportation, adult foster care, and shared living.

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Dick and Rick Hoyt presented $15,000 to Venture Community Services on behalf The Hoyt Foundation.  The funds will support people with developmental disabilities and ensure they have access to the opportunities they deserve.  Pictured with the Hoyts is Mike Hyland, Venture President & CEO.

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About Venture’s New Multi-Sensory Experience

We’re proud to share an article by Mike Hyland, President and CEO, that appeared in the most recent edition of The Provider.  This newspaper is the flagship publication for the Providers’ Council and is widely considered the voice of the private provider industry in Massachusetts.  With a combined hard copy and electronic circulation estimated at over 5,000, it is the most widely read — and respected — publication of its kind in the state.

Technology has vastly changed the way most of us live. We send e-mail instead of letters, we scan documents rather than fax them, we talk to each other through our cars, and we watch television on 46 inch screens at home and 8 inch screens on trains and park benches. Technology has also brought many tools to the human services industry, from iPads to alternative communication devices. One of the best advances in supporting people living with autism has come in the proliferation of sensory rooms.

Sensory rooms have been in use in Europe since the 1970s and are now becoming increasingly common in the U.S. They are safe places for many populations including those with dementia and people who have suffered a traumatic brain injury. The sensory room is now a vital tool in supporting children and adults on the autism spectrum who typically do not perceive their surroundings in the same way that most of us do. At Venture Community Services we use sensory rooms to give a person control of sensory experiences in a way that is not possible in public spaces.

Our two most recently built homes were both constructed with space for sensory rooms. In fact, all future Venture programs will be designed with sensory rooms in mind. Currently, the agency is finishing construction on a sensory room in our Sturbridge Day Hab program. This space is the result of a generous donation from the Hoyt Foundation and it creates specialized programming opportunities for several populations.

Like all sensory rooms, the agency’s newest one is being built with careful attention to detail around lighting, flooring, colors, sound, and tactile options. The room is equipped with tools that allow for safe exploration while also helping individuals de-escalate away from the larger group. It is also a space where staff members can work directly with individuals to develop coping techniques as well as to experience sensory stimulation in a way that is meaningful to the individual. Although many people will use the sensory room, each person will experience the environment in a unique way.

Perhaps the most exciting element in our new sensory room is the Smart Board. It opens the door to countless options that encourage an individual to express creativity, feelings, and ideas in a soothing way. The technology keeps evolving but the board itself essentially becomes a large touch pad that allows a person to manipulate words, pictures, or environments to either express feelings or to simply relax through an active process. The work station allows staff members to present the people we support with highly individualized opportunities to experience sensory stimulation on a spectrum that is non-threatening and actually controlled by the individual. We see the Smart Board as an essential tool in helping individuals to experience sensory stimulation in an affirmative way.

In addition to the Smart Board, Venture’s latest sensory room is equipped with other tools that both soothe and stimulate anyone struggling with sensory processing. A marble board allows an individual to work quietly with his hands, special lighting allows an individual to control the way the room looks visually, special carpeting controls sound amplification, and special furniture creates a space of comfort. We encourage participants to touch because everything in the room is safe. We also encourage participants to tell us what helps them to relax so that we can help them maximize the benefits of the sensory room. In this context, our sensory rooms are truly a space where collaborative treatment occurs.

The vital treatment that is provided by the human services workforce in this state is certainly as challenging as it has ever been, probably even more so. However, the more that we as providers are able to do with technology, the better treatment centers and workplaces we can create.

Dedicating the Rick Hoyt Multi-Sensory Experience

We are thrilled to announce that our brand-new sensory room is complete! Today we welcomed the legendary father and son team of Dick and Rick Hoyt to our Sturbridge Day Program, where we were proud to dedicate the Rick Hoyt Multi-Sensory Experience. Thanks to a generous grant from the Hoyt Foundation, our incredible new space will be a vital tool in supporting individuals with disabilities.

We were also happy to welcome State Representative Todd Smola and Sturbridge Town Administrator Leon Gaumond at the celebration, as well as board members and many dedicated staff members.

“The sensory room is a great addition to our program,” said Kevin Hughes, Vice President of Day Services at Venture. “This room will allow the people we support to experience their environment in a way that is safe and meaningful to each person that uses it. We are appreciative the generosity of the Hoyt Foundation that has made this possible.”

The Hoyt Foundation, founded by father-and-son team Dick and Rick Hoyt in 1989, helps build the individual character, self-confidence and self-esteem of America’s disabled young people through inclusion in all facets of daily life, including in family and community activities, especially sports, at home, in schools and in the workplace. Dick and Rick have run more than 1,000 road races together all across the world, including 30 Boston Marathons, inspiring countless people to achieve what they previously believed was impossible. To learn more about Team Hoyt, click here.

Multi-Sensory Room Dedication

Venture Multi-Sensory Room Dedicated to Rick Hoyt

Donation from Hoyt Foundation Builds Sensory Room to Support People with Disabilities

VIEW PHOTOS

 

Sturbridge – Venture Community Services, one of the Commonwealth’s leading providers of innovative human services held a ribbon cutting & dedication of their new multi-sensory environment on Friday, December 4th.  The space was constructed with funds from a donation made by the Hoyt Foundation, founded by the famed father-son running team of Dick and Rick Hoyt.  Located in their Sturbridge Day Habilitation program, this new treatment option was named and dedicated in honor of Rick Hoyt.

Sensory environments are a vital tool in supporting children and adults on the autism spectrum and with other disabilities who typically do not perceive their surroundings in the same way that most of us do.  Venture uses sensory rooms to give a person control of sensory experiences in a way that is not possible in public spaces.

“The sensory room is a great addition to our program,” said Kevin Hughes, Vice President of Day Services at Venture. “This room will allow the people we support to experience their environment in a way that is safe and meaningful to each person that uses it.  We are appreciative the generosity of the Hoyt Foundation that has made this possible.”

The Hoyt Foundation, founded by father-and-son team Dick and Rick Hoyt in 1989, helps build the individual character, self-confidence and self-esteem of America’s disabled young people through inclusion in all facets of daily life, including in family and community activities, especially sports, at home, in schools and in the workplace. Dick and Rick have run more than 1,000 road races together all across the world, including 30 Boston Marathons, inspiring countless people to achieve what they previously believed was impossible.

 

 

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#GivingTuesday 2015

This year, on Tuesday, December 1, 2015, Venture Community Services is participating in #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving.

We hope you might consider making your annual #GivingTuesday gift to support people with disabilities in your community. Venture Community Services provides essential services to people facing diverse challenges from all over Massachusetts, and we look to our partners to help us give them the opportunities they deserve. Your gift can help provide valuable adaptive equipment, social and recreational opportunities, and so much more. To make your #GivingTuesday gift, please visit www.venturecs.org.

During this time of year, we are also calling on our supporters to help us make the holidays special for the people we support through our Giving Tree program. To give a holiday gift, please contact Paige Mador at 774-922-1135 or pmador@venturecs.org.

Last year, more than 30,000 organizations in 68 countries came together to celebrate #GivingTuesday. Since its founding in 2012, #GivingTuesday has inspired giving around the world, resulting in greater donations, volunteer hours, and activities that bring about real change in communities. We encourage you to join the movement and visit www.givingtuesday.org to learn more about how you can make a difference.

Enjoy the holiday season, and thank you for supporting Venture Community Services!


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