Rowan’s Room is a centre in Middleton that offers resources to parents of children with autism. Inspired by her own daughter Rowan, who was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of two, executive director Elizabeth Mason-Squires was looking for resources to help her child transition to school when she realized none were available.
That’s why she set out to create a new resource for children in the Valley who aren’t quite ready for the traditional classroom setting.
“We aren’t here to replace other services but to bridge the gap and provide more opportunities for growth socially, academically, developmentally, and recreationally,” Mason-Squires says. “This gives our students the best chance for success down the road.”
Last September, the centre opened its doors and began helping children like White’s daughter.
“Rowan’s Room offers programming for children with autism, sensory issues, ADHD, oppositional defiance disorder and other special needs,” White explained. “There are options like pre-Primary transitions that are for children who are ready to go to school, but need some help adjusting. They work with the child directly.”
There’s also a co-school program that is designed for children currently attending school that allows them to split their time between traditional classrooms or homeschooling and Rowan’s Room, as well as before and after school and respite programming.
With a 1:1 or a 3:1 ratio, depending on the service, kids get direct, hands-on support.
Even better, White says, children don’t have to have a specific diagnosis to access the programming – something that’s very important, she says, as there can often be a big delay in getting that.
“For my daughter, it was a place she could go to be herself, and we got so much support from them,” White said.
That’s a common experience for parents, says Mason-Squires.
“We have heard many positives from families,” she said. “Parents have said their children are calmer at home, many have used strategies they learned from our behavioural tutors at home with great success. We have even had children tell us they feel like they can be themselves at Rowan’s Room.”
An upcoming fundraiser aims to help the facility continue to offer support to families in the Valley.
“We were lucky enough to have half of her tuition covered,” White said. “That was huge for us – she couldn’t have attended otherwise. We got amazing support there and it made a huge difference. She’s not going their now but that’s why I’m so passionate and a huge supporter of Rowan’s Room. I want other children to have the same opportunities she did.”
White is the head of fundraising for Rowan’s Room and one of the organizers behind the first annual Rowan’s Room Developmental Society Gala. The Oct. 14 event will feature a three-course dinner prepared by the Berwick Lions, a dance featuring the band Jokers Right, a ticket auction, 50/50 draw and door prizes.
According to Mason-Squires, the funds raised at the gala will go directly towards operation costs associated with the special programming offered at Rowan’s Room.
“This a way of keeping tuition fees as low as possible for families,” she said.
“While we can only have eight or nine students in our current location at any one time, our reach potential is much higher as most students are part-time.”
Five children recently transitioned to school, which dropped current enrolment down a bit. It’s possible, she says, that as many or 30 or 40 children could access the services at once in the future. Over the summer, she saw triple the enrolment numbers from the first quarter of operation last fall.
The dream, she says, is to expand to another location in the future to give more families an opportunity to access Rowan’s Room.
“We realize that our location has made it difficult for some to access our services so we are working on finding a way to open a second location in the Kentville/New Minas area,” Mason-Squires said. “Our hope is to eventually grow to a point that we offer locations all over Nova Scotia.”
Tickets for the full gala are $30 for an individual, $50 for a couple or $250 for a 10-person table and are available until Oct. 10 at Scotiabank locations in Middleton, Greenwood and Kentville, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Tickets are also available for the dance, beginning at 9:30 p.m., for $15, and will allow participants to still take part in the silent auction and 50/50. The gala itself will be held Oct. 14 at the Kings Mutual Century Centre in Berwick.
Go online: Learn more about Rowan’s Room at http://www.rowansroom.ca/