Lekotek opens new play center in Tucker for children with disabilitiesCahterine is using an eye gaze system to place colorful boxes with accompanying music on the screen, wherever she looks. A camera attached to the monitor tracks her pupils and just by looking she can move the cursor. Photo provided to Decaturish
Tucker, GA — A new center for children with disabilities on Montreal Road in Tucker held an open house on March 7.
Lekotek, a company whose name is from a made-up Swedish word meaning “play library,” already has several locations around the Atlanta area, including Duluth, Alpharetta, Peachtree City, and Kennesaw.
Executive Director Helene Prokesch and Associate Director Katelyn Brieden emphasized their play-oriented, no-pressure approach. The toys and games at Lekotek are educational and complementary to focused therapy, but children can explore at their own pace.
“Lekotek is not therapy. It’s not school. It’s really a place for kids to come and have fun,” Brieden said.
Play sessions are aimed at children from birth to 8 years old, although the age is flexible based on a child’s needs. Each play session is individual, including a Lekotek leader and a child, plus their family.
The play sessions cost $250 per year, with scholarships available for families who cannot afford the fee.
Lekotek leader Lisa Nevitt says she prepares ahead of time, choosing two or three toys based on the child’s specific needs. After each session, the child can take those toys home until the next month.
Nevitt says that the whole family, including siblings, is encouraged to get involved
“That way, they don’t get stuck sitting in a waiting room,” Nevitt said, adding that sibling involvement benefits the family relationship.
Lekotek has adapted some commercial toys with switches to make them easier to turn on and has light boxes for children with visual impairments.
Other adaptive technologies include giant touch screens on the walls and a sensory room that gives feedback through images, colored lights, music, and vibration.
Children who have trouble with fine motor control can use a variety of “mice” from ones with larger buttons up to an easily manipulated beach ball-sized cube with pictures on each side that correspond to a game or song.
Children with extremely limited movement can use an eye gaze system, which can also allow a non-verbal child to communicate and answer questions, as well as play games. Those include some popular staples like Minecraft, as well as a variety of educational games.
Older children up to age 15 who grow out of the play sessions can attend club programs, family programs, and camps.
Among the open house attendees was a Masters in Special Education graduate student from Penn State, Sydney Chiat. Chiat said that she was in Atlanta during spring break to attend her cousin’s wedding and happened to hear about the event from an extended family member who advised her to come. Chiat praised the variety of adaptive technologies and play-based approaches.
“This is great,” Chiat said.
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