Wednesday, January 8, 2014
The struggles of autism can feel overwhelming at times. There are moments when life skills that are so simple for most can seem impossible for those with this emotional and social condition. SOS Health Care is hoping to alleviate some of that pressure for families in Georgetown with their new program, SOUL (Skills Of Understanding Life).
An extension of the Horry County program, SOUL is geared toward autistic youth ages 8-18. Once a week, participants will have the opportunity to grow their skills and learn new ones as they build relationships with staff, volunteers, and other participants. The program will focus on assisting children, pre-adolescents, adolescents, and young adults in improving conversation skills and learning to deal with emotions and behaviors. Younger participants will work on conversation and play skills.
“Some of these children are students that attend regular classes at school, so they’re doing well cognitively, but it’s emotionally and socially that they need help in life,” said SOS Health Care Executive Director Sarah Pope.
She explained that SOUL will meet each Thursday, just like a club, where participants will be split into groups by age level skill. The groups will play games that work on social issues and do activities that help them understand other people’s perspectives.
“Some of it’s going to look like fun games where we build into them skills that we’re working on,” Pope said. “Older ones may have discussions on how to react to different social situations.
“Primarily, these are people who are very isolated and don’t have friends,” she added. “They don’t usually have a place to go. They just hang out at home with their family. This gives them a place to make friends.”
Pope said they have seen bonds form through SOUL that extend outside of the program. The interests of participants are usually very narrow and a bit excessive so other people do not usually relate well to them. SOUL provides them with a place to meet like-minded people who they can feel comfortable being around and may share their same interests and way of doing things.
To introduce locals to the program, SOUL is having an open house Thursday, January 9, from 6 to 8 p.m. at North Hampton Baptist Church in Georgetown. Families are invited to come for the evening to experience the games and activities that will be offered each week, however, parents can drop in at their convenience if they cannot stay the entire time.
Pope said they hope SOUL is just the first step in helping families dealing with autism in the county.
“It’s the first program of its kind in the area and our goal is to really help develop programs for people with autism across Georgetown County thanks to funding we’ve received from the Frances Bunnelle Foundation,” said Pope.
SOUL will cost participants $20 a month and will meet from 6 to 8 p.m. each Thursday. North Hampton Baptist Church is located at 7468 Highmarket Street in Georgetown.
For more information, contact Diane Owens at (843) 283-3033, Trish Lord at (843) 325-9355, or Kim Dunn at (843) 325-1313. Or visit SOS Health Care’s website at www.sos-healthcare.com.