Area residents who love and care for children with autism and other disabilities will have another opportunity to network, find support, and introduce their children to music and art this month.
The Pervasive Parenting Center and Developmental Wings have teamed up to host the Family Support Night at 6 p.m. on November 27 at the Waylon Jones Resort, 203 Ranger Blvd. in Roland, and the free, family-friendly event will include the monthly Pervasive Parenting Center reunion, as well as art and music therapy sessions for children, said Michelle Qualls-Long, executive director of Developmental Wings.
The monthly reunion portion will include a way for families to find resources, talk to other families and provide moral support, while the art and music sessions will serve as a unique form of childcare for parents. during the meeting, she said.
“With the music part, we do a lot of movement,” Qualls-Long said. “A lot of children with intellectual disabilities have problems with this, so we are making movements to help them.
“And kids love music,” she added. “We’ll probably be playing bells for the kids that night as well.”
Although the event is free, parents who would like their children to participate in the art and music sessions are encouraged to call Qualls-Long at (479) 459-0645 or email [email protected] to that she can get an idea of how many art and music supplies will be needed.
“With the art therapy sessions, we are making fun arts and crafts – things the kids would find fun to do,” she said.
Developmental Wings is known for offering art and music therapy sessions that take place at 6:30 p.m. on Thursdays at the Muldrow Public Library in Muldrow or Faithfully Fit in Van Buren. The programs serve approximately 70 children in an area that includes Van Buren, Booneville, Fort Smith, and other towns and communities.
“There aren’t a lot of other treatment options in our area,” Qualls-Long said. “We do therapeutic horseback riding, we do the Drums Alive program, we have music and art, and we do bowling.
“We also do special outings,” she added. “We like to invite the whole family, so it’s a family group type setting.”
Kodey Toney, director of the Pervasive Parenting Center, said he also strives to make his programs positive experiences for families.
“We’ve done this a few times with Developmental Wings, and it’s a really neat partnership,” he said. “We have had cases in the past where parents show up to our meetings, but they did not have any kind of childcare.”
Toney began to think about ways to include the children in the monthly parent meetings at his center. He approached Qualls-Long about a possible partnership.
“Michelle jumped right on board so we could have things for the kids to do,” Toney said. “It was great, and the turnout increased.”
The benefits of the programs offered by Developmental Wings and the Pervasive Parenting Center are numerous and continue to increase, said Qualls-Long.
“It benefits the children because we meet them at the level where they are now,” she said. “We don’t force kids to do things they’re not ready for, because most of these kids have sensory, speech, and just shy problems. Since they’re not able to do things like other children, we try to raise them gradually. We want the children to be in a comfortable place and to do it at a comfortable pace. “
Toney said his organization’s mission reflects Qualls-Long’s words.
“Most of the time, families just like having someone to talk to, and it’s usually a pretty diverse crowd,” he said. “We have people involved who have already raised their children, and some families have children who have just been diagnosed.”
Meetings at the Pervasive Parenting Center are a “perfect” place for families to share knowledge and help build confidence levels in others, Toney said.
“You see, for lack of better words, the whole spectrum of adults trying to figure out what’s going on and how they can get support,” he said. “It’s great because these more seasoned parents – these parents who have been through this – can give advice.”
Toney chuckled then.
“You know, I’m supposed to be the expert, and I’m always learning new things from other families,” he said. “It’s great to have these people involved and to help us.”