BUFFALO, NY –The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra (BPO) in conjunction with Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo (WCHOB) has announced the addition of BPO Kids for Exceptional Kids, a subset of the BPO Kids classical concert series that focuses on children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), cancer and other chronic physical or healthcare challenges. The program is supported through a generous sponsorship from Wegmans.
“Wegmans is proud to support this very special program,” said Michele Mehaffy, Consumer Affairs Manager, Buffalo Division of Wegmans. “BPO Kids for Exceptional Kids gives families the opportunity to enjoy a musical experience they may have never thought could be possible.”
The goal of the BPO Kids for Exceptional Kids program is to make the concerts more accessible and comfortable to all children, specifically those with ASDs who face unique challenges. The BPO and WCHOB have worked together to provide families with pre-concert activities; sound muffling headphones; preferred seating near exits (if desired); access to a quiet space if a child needs a break; and awareness and education presentations to ushers, staff and volunteers to increase their understanding of ASDs and best practices to communicate and interact with these children and their families.
“Many families with children with autism are hesitant to try new things because they do not know how their child may react given their sensory differences and preferences for familiarity and routine,” said Jana Mertz, MBA, Program Coordinator for the Autism Center at Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo. “Since many children with autism do not have any visible physical differences, it can be difficult and uncomfortable for families to deal with the stares and reactions from those around them during times when the child is struggling to cope with new surroundings or manage his/her behavior. The BPO Kids Exceptional Kids program strives to increase awareness and acceptance of all differences and provides families with comfort and confidence in a welcoming and supportive environment.”
Graduate student volunteers from the Exceptional Education program at Buffalo State College and the Occupational Therapy program at the University at Buffalo will coordinate the pre-concert, sensory friendly activities and are available to assist families if needed.
“We often hesitate to bring our daughter, Larkin, to events because of her inconsistent, sometimes disruptive behavior,” said Kerrin Walling, the mother of a child with autism. “At the BPO Kids concerts, we feel welcome and comfortable. Larkin loves music and it’s a treat for her to watch live music being performed. “As soon as the music starts, any agitation subsides and she calms right down. Her entire body relaxes throughout the concert. We’ve enjoyed every minute of these concerts together as a family.”
Research shows that involving children in music programs contributes significantly to the development of critical thinking skills, creative thinking, problem solving and communication skills, as well as increases in self-esteem.
“We are honored to be partnering with the BPO once again to provide our families with a unique musical experience that caters specifically to their needs,” said Allegra C. Jaros, MBA, President, Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo. “Music and the arts will be integral to the new John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital as tools for healing and respite, so it is wonderful to see the BPO supporting that vision.”
“The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra is proud to expand the BPOKids program with Women and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo and we are thrilled that Wegmans is supporting our efforts to make BPO concerts accessible to more families in Western New York,” said Robin Parkinson, Director of Education and Community Engagement. “We have been putting a special focus on improving our facilities, staff training and helpful supports for families with unique needs and we couldn’t do it without WCHOB and Wegmans.”
The 2015-2016 season kicks off at 2:30PM on October 18th at Kleinhans Music Hall with “Symphonic Spooktacular,” a Halloween-inspired concert complete with fun activities, a costume parade and a meet and greet with cartoon characters. For a full list of upcoming BPO Kids concerts visit www.bpo.org.
Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo, a Kaleida Health facility and teaching hospital for the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, is the regional center for comprehensive and state-of-the-art pediatric, neonatal, surgical, perinatal and obstetrical services in Western New York and beyond. For more information, please go online at www.wchob.org.
Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo,
a Kaleida Health facility
219 Bryant Street
Buffalo, NY 14222