By Emilee Foster and Lisa Audi, New York H&V
New Yorkers should know about a new organization that recently partnered with the New York Chapter. Bring on the Spectrum (BOTS) welcomed the Capital Region chapter of Hands and Voices of New York last March for an event just for our kids. We were thrilled to have 32 children and 23 parents attend to meet each other, connect and have fun. BOTS is a 6,000 square foot Community Space & Sensory Gym, enhancing the lives of neurodiverse children, young adults and adults in the greater Capital Region and is a registered nonprofit.
The sensory gym is unique with space and physical activities for children, young adults and adults. The gym includes equipment that holds up to 300 pounds — sensory swings, monkey bars, mini rock wall and two slides. There are tactile interactive including an amazing color-changing marble display. To develop social skills, there are games – air hockey, giant Jenga, corn hole and Connect Four. When a break is needed, there is Price Chopper’s Golub Foundation Sensory Room, a unique space dedicated to sensory experiences designed specifically to help individuals feel calm, supported, and focused.
The Community Space is the game changer created to be reflective of what the neurodiverse community wants. In 2022, BOTS has hosted art, yoga, music therapy, board games, Zumba, STEAM workshops, movie nights and “teen/young adult hang-out” events.
In short, social, recreational and lifestyle activities where friendships are created, teamwork is fostered and connections are made. AND, a place to just have fun!
“My daughter is deaf/hard of hearing and she has autism,” said BOTS founder Lisa Audi. “For me and our board, we wanted to create an inclusive community space. While our name has the word spectrum in it, we really viewed the word spectrum beyond autism. We welcome the spectrum of diagnosis. We welcome the spectrum of ages; we are not just for children. And we welcome the spectrum of diversity and inclusion. All means All.”
Local Hands & Voices Board member Emilee Foster (who is a Teacher of the Deaf) coordinated with Michele Swain (a speech therapist) for the event. Both have known Audi for 8 years, having worked with her daughter from the age of 2.5 years to the present.
“Emilee and Michele have meant the world to my daughter and me,” Audi shared. “Having them work with my daughter and having them to lean on, especially in the beginning, was incredibly important. When I began to work on BOTS, I knew I wanted the deaf/hard of hearing community to be included in what we were doing. Again, a true spectrum of individuals and families. I have said this time and again since we began this project. We are open to ideas from the community; it is the community’s space. Please connect with us, we want to be here for everyone,” Audi emphasized.
The New York Chapter looks forward to hosting the next event at BOTS on February 11, 2023.