The Bounce Factory: Gentle Jump Time
As of June 29, 2015, The Bounce Factory of Warren, NJ became the first small business in the state to obtain certification in Autism Awareness and Acceptance. With the highest rate of Autism in the country, New Jersey’s current rate of the disorder is 1 in 45 children, meaning that out of 8.938 million New Jersey residents, it is estimated that 1.99 million are currently diagnosed with an Autism-spectrum disorder. Informed of such shocking statistics, The Bounce Factory was determined to make a difference in the lives of those living with the disorder. As an indoor play place located in Central NJ, the company decided that they should receive proper training and implement a program, Gentle Jump Time, which enhances the betterment of children with Autism and special needs through fun and play.
Missing Piece Awareness Inc., the organization that supplied the training that The Bounce Factory received, is based out of New York and seeks to make every small business friendly towards, and accepting of, children with Autism and their families. The Bounce Factory owner, Cheryl Taylor, can be noted saying, “We have seen firsthand the reluctance many families have about bringing their child to a place like this,” and she does not think that anyone should ever feel that way. As a result, Taylor and all of her colleagues agreed that the implementation of a specialty behavioral play program was the best course of action.
The Gentle Jump program that The Bounce Factory developed, in accordance to the training received from Missing Piece Awareness Inc., does not simply benefit children with Autism. Their program accepts children with a variety of special needs, offers them a fun and safe place to play and, most importantly, gives them a chance to better their social and recreational skills. Unlike the other programs offered at The Bounce Factory, the Autism and special needs program is focused on structured play that is meant to be both fun and developmentally beneficial.
Although all of the programs at The Bounce Factory have structure to them and offer educational benefits such as socialization, mobility and active play for children with Autism or Autism-spectrum disorders, the Gentle Jump play program is so much more. This fun play program gives children with Autism a chance to be themselves. They will be afforded the opportunity to run and play in a judgment free zone, with other children who are like them. Where they might have faced adversity or bullying in the past, The Bounce Factory will only offer open arms and acceptance. The staff will work with the children enrolled in the program and help them become more comfortable with interaction, free movement and play.
Staff and Supervision:
All staff members who are present during Gentle Jump Time, between 4 and 6:00 pm every Tuesday, have been trained to understand the basic needs of those with Autism and how they should behave in response to certain actions. To ensure the safety of all children, the staff members have been taught to use simple language and gestures, ignore unwanted behavior and reinforce positive behavior. As bouncers attend Gentle Jump on a regular basis, they will become comfortable with the staff and the rules will become second nature.
Simply because the program is geared towards a group with special needs, the staff cannot let the rules be thrown to the wayside and that is why they have been trained the proper way to communicate with children who have behavioral disorders. Through simple and direct language and gestures, most jumpers should be able to understand the rules of the play zone and what is expected of them. Additionally, if the child has difficulty comprehending the rules, the staff members will further explain them, working with their parent or guardian, until it is communicated in such a way that makes sense to the child.
The Bounce Factory also invites parents to get involved in their child’s time in the play zone. Knowing that it may take time and the reassurance of familiar faces, the staff will encourage parents to work with their children and get them to become more open to socialization. Also, The Bounce Factory will suggest that parents bring their child’s therapists, whether they be occupational, physical, ABA, or speech therapists, to Gentle Jump Time because they know that it is during these times of fun and laughter that many special needs kids are open to practicing their skills.
How the Program Truly Helps:
As stated by Taylor, one of The Bounce Factory’s primary goals with their Gentle Jump Time program is to help parents discover what their children are capable of doing. Since the environment is new and children may take time to adjust, The Bounce Factory will make it a point to offer parents of children too uncomfortable to bounce on their first day with a pass so they can return another day. Additionally, the staff will make it clear to the parents of bouncers that there is no shame or embarrassment if their jumper begins to have a meltdown. The area is completely judgment free and, as employees will tell them, “we’ve all been there.”
While children are bouncing and enjoying themselves in the weekly two hour long program, parents are encouraged to relax and have fun. Since they spend so many hours a day making their special needs child the main focus, the staff at The Bounce Factory makes it clear that of course parents are invited to play and interact with their children during Gentle Jump Time, but if they need a break and just want to sit back and observe they are welcome to do just that. The highly trained staff will always have control of the group and lead the structured activities with excitement and enthusiasm, affording parents the comfort to take a step back. They will know that their child is under the supervision of people who understand the unique behaviors and can broaden their child’s horizons in a fun way.
That is actually one of the most unique features of Gentle Jump. This program is fun and therapeutic for children. Much like the therapies these jumpers likely receive on a regular basis, Gentle Jump will seem like play…..primarily because it is play. Although the facility is a play time environment and attention to jumpers is all modified due to the jumpers’ special needs, the staff integrates a combination of structure and open play. Of course all children will be told the rules and be expected to follow them, but in addition to that, they will be encouraged to be a part of the group, play and have fun at their own leisure. The Bounce Factory even sets up a ‘quiet room’ for those who want to take a break or need some time to regroup.
As a whole, Gentle Jump is an innovative program that The Bounce Factory has developed because they saw a need for all special needs children, not just those affected by Autism-spectrum disorders, to retreat to, make friends and socialize. Parents will be able to take comfort in the fact that their children will not be judged for their behavior and the staff has not only an understanding of the potential outbursts, but also the skills to refocus the emotions in a positive way. They will be given the joy of watching their child break out of his or her shell as weeks pass, becoming more interactive with the group and excited to bounce with their friends.
The Bounce Factory
150 Mt. Bethel Rd., Warren, NJ 07059
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