May 26, 2023, Bowling Green (OH) Independent: Ready Program expands footprint to help more children with autism transition to kindergarten https://bgindependentmedia.org/ready-program-expands-footprint-to-help-more-children-with-autism-transition-to-kindergarten/
Ben is an adorable ginger-headed five-year-old who moves through the classroom with curiosity and joy. To see him now, you would have no idea that as a four-year-old he was nonverbal with delayed physical and motor skills.
The Ready Program at Wood County Hospital has been the difference-maker for Ben as well as for his parents, Brian and Kristina Gibson of Waterville.
Designed for children with autism, the preschool program located at 1037 Conneaut Ave. in Bowling Green, works with children on their communication, behavioral and social skills to successfully transition from preschool to kindergarten.
“The transition from preschool to kindergarten can be difficult for any child, but for those with autism it can be especially challenging” said Deb Butler, director and founder of the program that is under the Wood County Hospital umbrella.
As a pediatric occupational therapist at the hospital, Butler had the idea to meld the medical and educational needs of children with autism into a preschool program. With support from the hospital foundation, The Ready Program opened its doors eight years ago for three- to five-year-olds with autism. Brittany Beightler, an intervention specialist, heads the Ohio Department of Education-licensed classroom.
Four years ago, the program added applied behavior analysis (ABA) as another tool in the toolbox for working with the preschoolers. Sarah Vuyk-McGee, a board-certified behavior analyst, oversees the one-on-one ABA program. With the addition of ABA and the increased demand for both programs, the hospital foundation recently supported the program’s expansion into a new, larger, more functional space that will allow up to 10 students to enroll.
Additionally, the Wood County Hospital Guild, through its annual Hops and Vines event, raised $12,500 to provide new furnishings including child-size tables and chairs, shelves and storage units, refrigerator and microwave, and items for the play-based curriculum.
In April, The Ready Program welcomed students into the roomier and more cohesive space just down the hall from the original location, Butler said.
Children who are enrolled in the program may spend 20 hours or more each week working on their skills, Beightler said. They usually spend half the day in the classroom and the other half in ABA. Both areas are focused on play, “which is often how they learn best,” Vuyk-McGee said.
For Ben, the program has seen him grow from a child who used to sit on the floor and cry or scream to a little boy who is learning to communicate….