The Value of Socialization Services for Kids on the Spectrum

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Those of you who read this blog know how much of an influence my son’s socialization group Helping Hands Behavioral Outreach has had on his development.  When we first learned about HHBO, I was typically skeptical of how much help it could provide to my Autistic child.   It became relatively clear however, that the idea of modeling behavior to improve social (and eventually academic) interactions were key to his overall improvement.  Not only did it help Mike interact directly with adults and other children in his group, it helped him in ‘social’ situations: cooking, playing and sharing his art.  I firmly believe that the development of social skill will be the foundation for everythink my son accomplishes; these skills will help him become more independent, help him to seek help when necessary and eventually establish friendships.   This story on Ohio’s IDEA House is just another example of dedicated professionals shaping the lives of children on the Spectrum.

IDEA House builds kids’ social skills

The alternate education option IDEA House exists to fill the social needs of struggling students in a way no other organization is doing. After only one year, the center has seen a huge response.

IDEA House works to close the gap in the school system for children with disabilities, particularly kids on all ends of the autism spectrum. The service center fills the social needs of children in a way no other organization is doing.

Considered a child’s home away from home, the year-old service center in Stark County has been growing rapidly. Founded by Angela Shumate, IDEA House offers help in ways no other local organization can. The professionals at the center give IEP support, serving as a parent advocate, offer after-school tutoring, help with homework and Friday night game nights.

IDEA House is an alternate education choice for parents who feel their child needs more one-one-one treatment than a public school can offer.

“We really strive to work with the whole family, offering support to parents and siblings. We connect parents so that if nothing else goes right that day, they can talk to another parent who’s been there to create that support system,” explained Shumate.

She’s realized many parents aren’t even aware of some of the resources available to their children. For example, if your child has been diagnosed with any form of autism, you can apply for an Autism Scholarship Grant of $20,000 a year. The money would go toward an alternate education for your son or daughter from ages 3-21.

“We are the only service provider in the area that doesn’t cost parents above and beyond that $20,000,” said Shumate. “The State doesn’t turn down any child diagnosed with any for of autism on the spectrum, including Asperger’s syndrome. They just need to have an IEP in their school district to qualify.”

While IDEA House can’t provide transportation for parents, they do provide a learning experience that heavily focuses on the social skills of those with disabilities.

“When we do our weekly game nights, it’s set it up so that when there’s awkward situations, we can stop them and teach them,” explained Shumate. “It stinks to see the kids uncomfortable and learn a tough lesson, but we’re there to do it in a very loving, supportive way.”

Adding to the great news, Shumate said they have “really exploded in a big way.” On May 1 the organization will be moving into a “big, beautiful home” on Cleveland Avenue. The blessing brings a natural learning environment with a home setting.

“The kids will do life skills, like set the table for lunch, prepare their own food, wash dishes,” explained Shumate. “They’ll also have ‘down time’ to watch TV, just as they would be at home. We are here to teach kids how to have an independent, successful life after school. I have no doubt many of our kids will go on to college. There’s no program out there going to this extent.”

IDEA House will host an open house on May 12 where parents can ask questions and get to know the staff. And there are still 5 openings for next year via the scholarship program. Of course, there’s an unlimited amount of tutor sessions available weekly. Most sessions last one hour.

“I’m not sure where my passion came from,” said Shumate. “I always see the hidden gem where someone else doesn’t. For me, it’s about realizing the potential in people.”

On the Web:

To learn more about IDEA House:

To learn more about Ohio’s Autism Scholarship program and grant:


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