PLT is a non-profit organization that designs and delivers programs to support the health, physical well being, communication and social-emotional development of individuals with Autism/Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) and others who need additional support to be successful.
- Individuals with ASD and others who need knowledgeable, trained support workers often experience challenges in typical community and recreation settings and activities.
- The root causes can be very individualized; however the impact of challenges in community settings can be devastating.
- Each individual has a unique profile of skills, interests, and challenges. These challenges can be invisible until the typical social world and inconsistencies of modern life become overwhelming.
- This overwhelmed state looks different for each individual, but resulting behaviours can appear to be extreme to the inexperienced observer.
- Individual causes for these challenges could be the result of developmental delays, the lack of any functional communication, and a lack of social understanding. However, an individual’s challenges could also be as complex as a sensory processing dysregulation.
- Some individuals have been successfully included in typical recreation activities; however, many have been asked to leave these classes, camps and activities because staff is not trained and therefore not equipped to support these individuals.
- Research is proving that cardiovascular exercise and movement can help reduce stress, anxiety, promotes learning, functional communication and overall brain functioning. Thus the need to develop fundamental movement skills so that physical exercise can become part of their wellness routines, promoting and strengthening social-emotional regulation across settings.
For the past 15 years, Jan Keddy conducted informal needs assessments while working with families of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), and their teachers and community partners during her transition work for the Halifax Regional School Board. Now, in her retirement, Jan and a team of committed professionals is working with Playing and Learning Together’s Board of Directors to fill identified gaps in current supports and services for children, youth and adults with ASD in HRM and across the province.
Our first initiative was to begin structured recreation programs for individuals with Autism/ASD and others who need additional support to be successful. It is our belief that every individual with ASD and others who need additional support should have the basic right to community-based play, recreation and leisure activities. This is a partnership with Halifax Regional Municipality Recreation Department.
Recent research using functional MRIs suggests that communication and learning pathways improve with physical movement, exercise and targeted cardio-vascular movement. The impact of this type of structured play and the development of fundamental movement skills also helps individuals regulate their attention and behaviours in-group settings.
During the first six months of the program our team also noticed that movement and play-based games and activities promote social communication, improves imagination, collaborative problem solving, perspective taking and flexible thinking while having fun in natural environments. Our ultimate goal is to support individuals with ASD to move to supported community recreation settings.
Vision: Every individual with Autism/ASD has a unique personality and profile; they can learn, grow and develop at their own pace with the right kinds of supports. Autistic adults and families become our partners in this journey as we work together to fill the gaps in programs and service delivery in Nova Scotia.
Mission: Through training, partnerships and individualized programming supports and services, we empower and support individuals with Autism/ASD to be active, lifelong members of our community.
Our Board is now in the position to plan to expand the program to other areas of Halifax Regional Municipality so that more families and more individuals with Autism/ASD can be involved in the after school program. We would also like to include structured recreation, leisure and social club activities for Autistic adults. At this time we are asking the larger community to support these initiatives.