We are very fortunate in Royal Oak to have some of the best service organizations for familes and children in the area.. Perhaps the most prominent are the Boys & Gilrls Club and The YMCA, but one of the best kept secrets may be the Judson Center located at 13 Mile and Greenfield in Northwest Royal Oak.
Last Thursday morning my wife and I were invited to the monthly "Java at The Judson " coffee and tour. It was an enlightening hour and even though my voting precinct is located there, it was the first time I really went inside to check out the facilities and learn about the programs.
Thursday's tour was devoted almost entirely to their programs for Children and Families dealing with Autism. But before we began Donna Belgan, VP of Resource Development gave us a quick overview of all their services. The A.B.C.D. as she stated, stands for Autism services, Behavior Health Services, Child Welfare, and Development Disabilities services. They offer many different programs in these areas and I would have to admitt that I always thought of Judson Center as the "orphanage " as that was their original mission. But they are so much more.
So as I mentioned, our tour was devoted to the Autism program. We were introduced to Sara Bretz ( sorry I don't remember her title ) who gave us the tour and talked to us about the different services and programs for Autistic children and their families. And I want to stress that they offer counseling for the entire family not just the kids. They recently offered a summer program with over 100 kids in three locations in Oakland County.
Inside the building we were shown the 3 "pods" used by the staff and kids for different types of therapy. There is an Art pod with all kinds of materials where the kids can demonstrate their abilities based on skill level. Next we saw the Group Pod where they can inter-act in group settings and last , my favorite, was the Sensory Pod with all kinds of soft toys and cushioned play areas. There is also a Library for parents and family members where they can obtain valuable information on treatment and behavior threapy.
We were also introduced to two amazing young boys and their moms.
Jamie is 9 years old and was diagnosed with Autism when he was 20 months. Anna, his mom shared with us how he has been helped at the Judson Center where they receieve the extra support not provided by the schools. the Judson Autism program "fills in the Gap" for Jamie and his family. One of the major behaviors he has learned is "turn taking" skills - something that can be very difficult for an autistic child.
We also met Nicholas and his mom Carol. Nicholas was diagnosed when he was 3 years old and had to be tought how to eat through targeted behaviior therapy. Carol told us the the Judson Center program teaches parents how to teach their kids.
Both Carol and Anna feel the biggest benefit for them as parents is that they have formed new friendships with the other parents and now have this new level of support in their lives. Once a month the center sponsors a supervised " Kids Night In" at the center so the parents can go out for a few hours and have a normal date for a dinner or movie. They cannot leave their autistic child with the 15 yr old girl down the street so this is a very special support option.
As I mentioned they offer many other services and I encourage anyone interested to contact the Judson Center at 248 -549 - 4339 or www.judsoncenter.org for more information. They are a non-profit and rely on the donations of our generous community for support. Ask about the next Java at the Judson. It will be worth your while.