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‘Chill Spot’ therapy room offers respite to kids with autism at Upstate Family Behavior Analysis Center

Projections of an underwater scene, colorfully lit tubes with bubbles inside and swirling fiber optic strings provide the light in the new multi-sensory room at the Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital Family Behavior Analysis Program. The newly appointed room, dubbed the “Chill Spot” by the team at the center, opened to patients this fall and provides a calming, therapeutic environment for children served at the clinic.

The Upstate Family Behavior Analysis Program is an outpatient clinic that focuses on challenging behaviors displayed by children with autism and related disorders. It is located at 600 E. Genesee St., Syracuse.

“A consequence these patients live with is their sensitivity to the environment: sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, and balance” said Henry Roane, PhD, director of the Upstate Family Behavior Analysis Program. “The multi-sensory environment patients experience in the Chill Spot is calm, relaxing, and to an extent therapeutic. It also allows patients to choose how stimulating the room around them is, and how they interact with it. It can be a very rewarding experience for children.”

The Chill Spot offers a relaxed, dimly lit atmosphere with soothing sounds and tactile experiences. It is a safe space to help sensory development. It includes a variety of calming and interactive sensory devices such as color-changing bubble tubes, fiber optic lights, gel floor tiles, a crash mat, a soft play tunnel with LED lights, foam flooring, a concentration rocker, iPads equipped with sensory apps, and a variety of sensory product combinations all to address the sensory needs of children diagnosed with autism.

“We have seen the tremendous benefits for the children who use the multi-sensory environment at Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital, and we’re excited for patients in this outpatient setting to experience the same thing,” said Thomas Welch, MD, chair of the Department of Pediatrics and medical director of Upstate Golisano Children’s Hospital. “The Chill Spot was specifically designed to suit a variety of therapeutic approaches, helping patients to recover and grow. Patients are already enjoying the addition of this space to the clinic.”

The Upstate Family Behavior Analysis Program provides treatment for approximately 240 patients each year, ranging in age from 2 to 21.  Patients are treated for a range of behaviors including self-injury, physical aggression, property destruction, severe tantrums, issues with eating and non-compliance. The tools available in the Chill Spot are valuable in various ways to patients facing all of these challenges. Depending on the situation, time in this environment can provide a reward for hard work in a session and the opportunity to relax, or it can provide multiple therapeutic uses through selective use of light and sound.

The Chill Spot was made possible exclusively by a $24,000 grant from the Green Family Foundation secured by the Upstate Foundation.  “The Chill Spot is a perfect example of the importance of community support for unique and needed projects at Upstate. Being able to connect donors with programs that are meaningful to them is rewarding and a win-win for all,” said Terry Toscano Shenfeld, director of Foundation Relations at the Upstate Foundation. “We are grateful for the long-standing support of the Green Family Foundation. The Chill Spot would not have been made possible without their support.”

Caption: The Chill Spot is a feature of Upstate’s Family Behavior Analysis Program, located at 600 E.Genesee St., Syracuse.

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