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Beline Obeid

Learning life-long skills

Judson Center children don't know they are learning social skills because they are having so much fun.


August 16, 2012
Sleeping, they weren't.

“King” Corey Threat asks the warlock why he put the entire court to sleep. photo by Ann L. Fouty.
Children with wide open eyes were wiggling and giggling when they were supposed to be feigning sleep.

The 5- to 19-year-old children in Judson Center's summer program were practicing their rendition of "Sleeping Beauties." They were learning lines, stage directions, cues and dances as part of the four-week summer program. Each student filled a part, whether it was the king, queen, fairy, warlock, knights or a court personality.

"This is the first year of theater," said Susan Benson, Wayne County regional director of the program. "This is an aspect we added this year."

Zoe Dedeyne plays the queen in “Sleeping Beauties.” She, along with everyone in the court, has been put under a sleeping spell. photo by Ann L. Fouty.
A theater component has been added to speech therapy, therapeutic horseback riding, swimming and field trips offered during summer sessions that are popular with families of children with behavioral disabilities, according to Benson.

"Our main focus is socializing," said Debbie Moffat, the center's program manager. "Every morning, with the little ones, we have circle time, go over the weather and calendar. The older group has a half an hour to an hour of academics. With the younger children we sneak in academics through story time and arts and crafts. Our year-round program stresses social skill building, some recreation activities for teens and adults."

Thus it serves both children and adults, both through summer sessions and the regular September through May curriculum.

Additionally, the Judson Center offers vocational training, employment skills, job development and employment, she added.

Michael Banaszewski bows to the king, Corey Threat. photo by Ann L. Fouty.
The center provides a continuum of behavioral, therapeutic and recreational services to individuals with autism and developmental disabilities from children to adults, Benson explained. This is accomplished through practicing social skills, activities for teens and play-based groups.

"This year, we expanded to offer specialized services to children with autism," she said. "All autism services will be provided by autism specialists who have been trained through Judson Center's Autism Connections program. We are excited to be able to offer families applied behavior analysis services this year, provided by our board certified behavior analysts. Applied behavior analysis services will be a covered benefit by insurances as the new autism spectrum disorders insurance covered is rolled out in Michigan.

"We offer recreational services to children, teens and adults throughout the year as well as our vocational services program which teaches employment skills, provides job development, job placement and job coaching to support individuals in their jobs."

She also pointed out services are offered to parents and siblings through the Judson Center because the entire family is affected when a child has been diagnosised with a behavioral disability. Dances, workshops for parents and siblings and counseling are offered.

Warlock Nicholas Currie, left center, is being discouraged from his evil ways by the king, played by Corey Threat, right. On the floor, from left, Tommy Haggarty, Michael Banaszewski and Joshua Jones; standing in the back is Nicholas Currie, who is a knight. photo by Ann L. Fouty.
The roots of the Judson Center are in the Foundation for Exceptional Children, established in 1954, Benson said. In 2010, Judson Center assimilated the programming of the foundation when it closed.

"We didn't want to loose the programming," she said.

And the program is successful as seen on the faces of about 20 students learning their theatrical parts in the newest segment of the Judson Center.

"Sleeping Beauties" is performed at 2 p.m. Friday, Aug. 17, in Grosse Pointe Memorial Church's facilities.

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