Area residents who love and care for children with autism and other disabilities will have another opportunity to network, find support and have their children explore music and art this month.
The Pervasive Parenting Center and Developmental Wings have partnered to host the Family Support Night at 6 p.m. Nov. 27 at the Waylon Jones Complex, 203 Ranger Blvd. in Roland, and the free, family friendly event will include the Pervasive Parenting Center’s monthly meeting, as well as art and music therapy sessions for children, said Michelle Qualls-Long, executive director for Developmental Wings.
The monthly meeting portion will include a way for families to find resources, talk to other families and provide moral support for each other, while the art and music sessions will serve as a unique form of childcare for the parents during the meeting, she said.
“With the music part, we do a lot of movement,” Qualls-Long said. “A lot of kids with developmental disabilities have issues with that, so we do movement to help them.
“And kids love music,” she added. “We’ll probably play some handbells for the kids that night, too.”
Although the event is free, parents who want their children to participate in the art and music sessions are encouraged to call Qualls-Long at (479) 459-0645 or email firstname.lastname@example.org so she can get an idea of the number of art and music supplies that will be needed.
“With the art therapy sessions, we do fun arts and crafts — things that the kids would find fun to do,” she said.
Developmental Wings is known for providing art and music therapy sessions that are held at 6:30 p.m. Thursdays at either the Muldrow Public Library in Muldrow or Faithfully Fit in Van Buren. The programs serve about 70 children from a region that includes Van Buren, Booneville, Fort Smith and other cities and communities.
“There’s not a lot of other therapeutic 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 bowl.
“We also go on 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 couple times with Developmental Wings, and it’s a really neat partnership,” he said. “We had a instances in the past where parents would show up for our meetings, but they didn’t have any kind of childcare.”
Toney began thinking of ways he could incorporate children into his center’s monthly parent meetings. He approached Qualls-Long about a possible partnership.
“Michelle jumped right onboard so we could have things for the kids to do,” Toney said. “It’s been great, and the participation has grown.”
The benefits of the programs offered by Developmental Wings and the Pervasive Parenting Center are numerous and continue to increase, Qualls-Long said.
“This benefits the kids because we meet them at the level they are at currently,” she said. “We don’t force the kids to do things they aren’t ready for, because most of these kids have problems with sensory, speech and just being shy. Since they aren’t able to do some things like other children, we try to raise them up gradually. We want the kids to be at a comfortable area and doing that at a comfortable pace.”
Toney said his organization’s mission mirrors Qualls-Long’s words.
“Most of the time, the families just like the fact that they have someone to talk to, and it’s usually a pretty diverse crowd,” he said. “We have people involved who already have raised their kids, and some of the families have children who are newly diagnosed.”
Pervasive Parenting Center’s meetings are an “ideal” place for families to share knowledge and help boost the confidence levels of others, Toney said.
“You see, for lack of better words, the whole spectrum of adults trying to figure out what is going on and how they can get support,” he said. “It’s great because those more seasoned parents — those parents who have been through this — can give advice.”
Toney then chuckled.
“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 those people involved and helping us.”