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 Vada Weier, 2, of Royal Oak, hula-hoops with Supergirl.

Vada Weier, 2, of Royal Oak, hula-hoops with Supergirl.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Everyone can be a superhero

By: Kayla Dimick | C&G Newspapers | Published January 22, 2019

 Centria Autism Services hosted a sensory-friendly environment during Superhero Autism Activity Day Jan. 18 at the Costick Activities Center. Pictured, Kaden Brock, 3, Harrison Township, dressed as Batman, races with The Flash volunteer and Michigan State University student Eric McElrath.

Centria Autism Services hosted a sensory-friendly environment during Superhero Autism Activity Day Jan. 18 at the Costick Activities Center. Pictured, Kaden Brock, 3, Harrison Township, dressed as Batman, races with The Flash volunteer and Michigan State University student Eric McElrath.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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FARMINGTON HILLS — Some of the world’s favorite superheroes took a break from fighting crime to hang out and play with local children recently. 

On Jan. 19, Centria Autism Services hosted a Superhero Autism Activity Day at the Costick Activities Center, 28600 W. 11 Mile Road. 

Around 300 families braved a snowstorm to attend the free event, which was designed to be a sensory-friendly program for children with autism. 

According to its website, the goal of Centria Autism Services is to help children with autism “develop, pursue and achieve their own goals and dreams” through applied behavior analysis therapy. 

Autism spectrum disorder is a range of neurodevelopmental disorders that can include social
impairments and difficulties with communication, according to the Autism Alliance of Michigan. 

The goal of applied behavioral analysis, or ABA, therapy is to increase behaviors in children with autism that are helpful and decrease behaviors that are harmful or affect learning. 

While Captain America, Wonder Woman and Spider-Man made their rounds, attendees could decide if they wanted a more physical activity of playing on the slide and walking on a balance beam, or they could take on a quieter activity and color or enjoy a snack. 

Rick Loewenstein, chief strategy and growth officer for Centria Autism Services, said the event was also open to children that Centria does not serve, as well as children without a disability. 

“It’s really a family event for kids to come and just be kids and do their own thing,” he said. “We’ve themed it around superheroes. It’s an opportunity for the kids to find their inner superhero, and quite honestly, the families are superheroes too.” 

Event organizers aimed to create a space where children with autism could relax and be themselves, Loewenstein said. 

“Many times, children with autism in the community are maybe seen as having challenges or ‘inappropriate’ behavior, when in fact, that’s their way of communicating. This space is safe so that they can be themselves and behave how is typical for them,” he said. 

Loewenstein said the event was also an opportunity for parents to network and get to know each other. 

“It’s an opportunity for families of children with autism to come together and meet, and a lot of times that’s just a great stress reliever in and of itself,” he said. 

Farmington Hills resident Chariece Cylar attended the event with her 6-year-old daughter, Jada. 

When her daughter was two, Cylar said, she was diagnosed with autism and severe attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. 

“As a mom, you hate separating activities for your children. My other kids can do things that she’s not able to do at the moment. So, events like this are important because she gets to feel like, ‘Oh, I can be like my siblings and do fun stuff too,’” Cylar said. “Everything is not always catered to autistic children, so it’s difficult for them. They have an internal clock and once that clock goes off, that’s it, so she’s not always able to hang out like her sisters.”

Cylar said she appreciated the safe environment for her daughter to play in. 

“They want to be a part of the crowd, but they don’t know how. For Jada, she wants so badly to talk to the other children and she doesn’t quite know how to do that, so it comes off violent as a hit or a bite and she doesn’t want to hurt them. She just wants to say, ‘Hi, how are you? I’m Jada,’ but she can’t do that. With things like this, she gets to see more people that are just like her,” Cylar said. 

Allison Estes, ABA recruiting team lead, dressed up as Wonder Woman to volunteer at the event. 

“I can’t even tell you how many times moms have come up to me and said, ‘I never thought I’d be able to do something like this with my kid,’” she said. “It’s just such a good feeling to know that those options are out there, because I think they should be. Everybody should have those opportunities.” 

For more information on Centria Autism Services, go to centriahealthcare.com

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