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Sensory World opens at Southbridge Mall

MASON CITY, Iowa – Saturday marked the grand opening for Sensory World indoor playground at Southbridge Mall in Mason City.The project is sponsored by the Special Kids Special Love organization. The goal is to provide a place for families with kids who have special needs to come and play.“It gives them an opportunity to have a safe place to play to relax to unwind, and also give them a place to practice some of the skills that they have been working on while they are in therapy,” said Special Kids Special Love Co-President Lacey Carpenter. Sensory World is open every Saturday afternoon from 1 -4. You can also reserve the playground for private parties. For more information, click here: http://www.specialkidsspeciallove.org


Sensory World is a new, indoor playground at the Southbridge Mall designed for families who have children impacted with autism and other special needs. You can find Sensory World across the hallway from Subway. The playground is currently open every Saturday between 1-4 p.m. Admission is free and staff plan to add more days and hours soon. Sensory World is operated by the local nonprofit organization Special Kids Special Needs whose mission is to, "provide advocacy, support, and love for children, youth, families, and care givers affected by Autism, Asperger's Syndrome, and Autism Spectrum Disorder."

Once you arrive at Sensory World, simply check-in with one of the friendly staff members at the front desk. The atmosphere is both fun and peaceful. There's a lot for kids to experience at sensory world from inflatables to tents. Kids will enjoy playing with a large variety of toys and finding things to climb and jump on.

While Sensory World does not provide childcare, the staff will shower you with a warm welcome and support you and your family as you explore the playground together. The staff at Special Kids Special Love also offer a support group every second Tuesday of each month. You can attend the next meeting at Sensory World on January 13th from 5:30-7 pm. It's open to families who have children with special needs, people who want to learn more about children with special needs, and people who would like to help.

The playground is only open to families who have children with special needs during operating hours, but is available for anyone to rent by the hour for special events and birthday parties for only $25/hour.

Learn more about Sensory World on Special Kids Special Love's Website and visit their Facebook page for updates. Contact them with questions or to reserve the space by emailing specialkidsspeciallove6@gmail.com. Their fundraising gala Reach for the Stars! is also coming up on January 30th.

Written by Jane Fischer and Associates  


Photo by Jane Fischer and Associates

SENSORY WORLD: A Special Place for Special Kids 

MASON CITY | Sensory World in Southbridge Mall is a place where special kids with special needs get special love at a special place to learn and play.Located across from Subway in the area that formerly housed an arcade, Sensory World is the newest addition to the mall. It is open from 1 to 4 p.m. each Saturday for special needs children up to the age of 12, accompanied by an adult. It is free. Beginning in February, it will also be open on Sundays. "It provides a safe place for special needs children to come and play and practice social skills," said Victoria Ries, who is co-president.She was a school teacher for 25 years and has an adopted son with autism. She saw the need for Sensory World and started to put the pieces together. She works with a five-member board of directors. Board member Jessica Dodge, who has a niece who is autistic, said support group meetings for parents are held once a month and there is also a lending library available for adults. Special events are also being planned for the children.There will be a black-tie fund-raising gala — Reach for the Stars-Special Kids, Special Loves — from 6 to 9:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 30, in the ballroom of the Historic Park Inn Hotel. Tickets are $100 and can be purchased at the hotel or online at www.specialkidsspeciallove.org. The next day, Saturday, Jan. 31, at 1 p.m. there will be an open house at Sensory World in which the public can see what it is all about. 

 ~JOHN SKIPPER john.skipper@globegazette.com

Despite Setbacks, Mall Managers Says It's Moving On!

A Playground Specifically Designed for Kids with Autism:
A Playground Specifically Designed for Kids with Autism. An organization in Iowa is combatting cabin fever and offering kids with autism a space to play in a place called "Sensory World," KIMT reported. The indoor playground, complete with inflatables, toy trains and a ball pit, is located at Southbridge Mall in Mason City and was designed specifically for kids with autism. The idea was spearheaded by program coordinator Kathy Steenblock, a committee member on the board of Special Kids Special Love. “It’s hard for autistic kids to be in social environments,” Steenblock told KIMT. “It might be overwhelming or, it might be too stimulating and sometimes it’s hard because others don’t understand their condition, so they don’t feel as comfortable, but we are hoping to provide a comfortable place where they can be themselves and have fun with other kids.”
Read more about the new space on KIMT.com. ~ Autism Speaks

SKSL Walks for Autism Speaks in Kansas City
From Lacey Carpenter- Co-President of SKSL-Today I walk for Jack. The challenges - the rewards of autism. The little milestones that scream big progress. I join a community of families who start as strangers yet instantaneously bond due to this unique connection. I walk thinking of the therapists and teachers who have abecome like family. Each one has walked a portion of this road with us and hold a special place in my heart as they work tirelessly to help Jack reach goals that seem so distant. I walk being grateful for @SKSL for being a continued support network and unbreakable friendship. Autism has taught me unspeakable patience and unconditional love. It has given me strength to advocate without fear. But mostly, the art of functioning on minimal sleep and knowing that God's mercies are sometimes disguised.


Study: 1 in 68 kids has autism - SKSL's Perspective
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KIMT - TV Back To School Fair - Sept. 2013