Late last month, local elected officials joined with the Brooklyn Kindergarten Society to help them usher in a new era of child care with the unveiling of the organization’s inaugural sensory gym in central Brooklyn — aimed at helping children with learning differences and developmental delays.
The gym, situated within the Weeksville Gardens Children’s Center, offers a fresh, therapeutic approach to provide children with occupational, physical and speech therapies, according to a BKS spokesperson. It is especially aimed at serving kids living in New York City Housing Authority developments or in under-resourced communities.
Melisha Jackman, executive director of BKS, says the facility may also help identify children on the autism spectrum early to ensure they get the kinds of support they need.
“We are unbelievably excited to launch this first-of-its-kind Sensory Gym Program, to help support the educational development of children with learning differences throughout Brooklyn,” she said. “This program will go a long way to helping us provide the proper support to pre-kindergarten and kindergarten children [with] holistic intervention and treatment for learning differences, including Autism Spectrum Disorder. We are incredibly grateful to the City Council for providing the critical funding that will support the staffing, curriculum development, and occupational therapy for this groundbreaking program.”
Per the society’s website, a sensory gym is full of activities that give children creative tasks to explore their senses of touch, sight and hearing. The quiet space — which will also allow students to receive one-on-one attention and assistance — will also be able to participate in small-group activities that will help them to work on social skills and physical activities that develop their abilities to sit up, run, climb, and use their fine motor skills.
While the new BKS space is geared towards those who may learn differently, the group is eager to welcome students of all educational styles.
“I’m thrilled to help launch the Brooklyn Kindergarten Society’s wonderful project that will help support students and families who are struggling to meet the educational and emotional needs of children with Autism,” said councilmember Shahana Hanif said in a statement. “This sensory gym will be a great resource that provides wrap-around services for our families who are most in need.”
Other local councilmembers and area elected officials were quick to show their support for the new sensory gym, and applaud BKS’ mission of helping young minds on every end of the spectrum.
“Youth education and engagement is at the center of shaping our city’s future towards cultivating bright minds with active and dynamic programs,” said councilmember Farah Louis.
BKS’s “approach towards targeted care will ensure that all families from a wide range of socio-economic and cultural backgrounds will have access to one-on-one interactions, occupational therapy, and new experiences that were previously out of reach for many children in Brooklyn,” Louis added.
BKS, formerly known as the Brooklyn Free Kindergarten Association, has been serving Brooklyn for over 131 years. It currently operates seven childhood centers throughout the Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville and Crown Heights.
With the help of other community leaders, BKS looks to continue offering high-quality learning experiences to the youth of the borough.
“The launch of Brooklyn Kindergarten Society’s Sensory Gym is another way that they will be providing amazing services to our communities most in need of help,” said councilmember Chi Ossé. “I am honored to be a part of the launch of such an amazing program that will go a long way toward benefiting children and families throughout our borough.”