When a child has unique sensory issues it is incredibly difficult to integrate the fulfillment of their needs with the daily activities of the entire family. Most families stress over going out to dinner with typical toddlers who may become tired, distracted or too loud for neighboring diners.
But, add in sensory issues and an outing becomes an entirely different ballgame. If noise is the offender to your sensitive child, then avoiding busy and loud establishments is the norm. If the sensory need is more tactile in nature, the child will be fascinated with the textures of certain items while being repelled by others. Sometimes, the material of interest can be a stranger’s clothing or a shiny metal that may be hot so you always have to be a step ahead of their feels. If your child’s sensory issues deal with olfactory components then they may love fragrances found in nature like flowers and herbs. Sometimes, though, with equal vigor, they prefer to sniff other things found in nature and/or the bathroom which can be problematic for all.
If you are a loved one, friend, caretaker, or professional person working with those dealing with sensory needs, there is a new resource in Sarasota County. Clara’s Clubhouse intends to alleviate the isolation of those living with sensory needs and to be a source of information and support for the community. Filling a portion of the void of services needed in Sarasota County, founder Nikki French credits her “four-year-old miracle girl,” Clara, as the ultimate inspiration for her newly-formed nonprofit. Clara was diagnosed with Non Verbal Autism Spectrum Disorder at age two. In addition to suffering from brain damage due to perinatal stroke, Clara also lives with a metabolic disorder and genetic abnormalities. The list is long for this little girl who treats every day as a gift and is quick to spread her joy to all those nearby. As a result of intensive education and information gathering, Nikki felt compelled to seek out others who may need assistance with the sensory needs that often accompany autism, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder,) and SLD (Specific Learning Disabilities.) She teamed up with friends who are also intimately familiar with sensory needs and, through Clara’s Clubhouse, are ready to assist families in the area in novel ways.
What resources can people expect to find through Clara’s Clubhouse? For starters, monthly meetings on a range of sensory-related topics are being held with great attendance and positive feedback coming in. In particular interest to parents, a 504 Plan and Individual Education Plan meeting is scheduled for July 17, just in time for the upcoming school year when you need to be familiar with your child’s IEP. Currently, all meetings are held at Shannon Staub Library in North Port but, Nikki and the other principal members of Clara’s Clubhouse are hoping to branch out to other locations throughout Sarasota County. In the meantime, to aid with childcare, there will be a room set up with sensory bins for the children to play with while the parents attend the meetings.
Also being created is a different type of library, a unique “sensory library”, where families can check out sensory items and toys before purchasing. Nikki hopes to alleviate some of the costs associated with acquiring often expensive sensory items. The child can play with the sensory toy for a few days and if there is a connection, the parents can buy it on their own. Nikki feels like this is an area where great expansion can occur as resources such as this are rare. In addition to the sensory library and educational forums, support groups are also forming to focus on the aspects of life with sensory needs. Anyone who has a special person in their lives dealing with sensory difficulties can benefit from sharing experiences and gaining new insight on how to deal with sensory topics as they arise.
A special fundraiser is planned for July 27th from 4:30 P.M. to 7 P.M. at the American Legion in North Port to benefit Clara’s Clubhouse. Dubbed “Oodles of Noodles Spaghetti Dinner,” the event will feature a delicious meal along with door prizes, raffles, and music. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 children 12 and under. Raffle tickets are just $2 each with great prizes involved. All proceeds from the event will go directly back to Clara’s Clubhouse, Inc. to build their inventory of sensory tools. To purchase tickets to this event or for more information on services offered by Clara’s Clubhouse, please visit their website here.
Please join The Sarasota Post in welcoming Clara’s Clubhouse, Inc. to Sarasota County. We love shedding light on new organizations that assist the most special residents in the area. Supporting our friends like Clara, with special sensory needs, and enjoying a nice spaghetti dinner is our idea of a winning evening.
Photos courtesy of Clara’s Clubhouse, Inc.