ELIZABETHTOWN — “Putting the FUN into FUNctional.” Such reads the goal of a new Elizabethtown business whose purpose is to help children with disabilities by means of recreational therapy.
Shayla Yancey, owner and director of DreamWorks Therapeutic Learning Center, opened the agency after being inspired by her first job working with people with special needs.
“I worked in helping reintegrate people (with special needs) back into the community and, in doing that, I learned that many times people with disabilities are looked at for their limitations and not for things that they actually can do or have the ability to do,” said Yancey. “I want to give children the opportunity to just be children regardless of their limitations or ability.”
Recreational therapy, or therapeutic recreation, uses various recreation and leisure activities to help children obtain set goals. Related to occupational and physical therapy, it uses children’s interests to help achieve the same goals they may have in occupational or physical therapy. Recreational therapists use, for example, crafts, dance, drama, sports, and leisure education to remediate social, motor, cognitive, and coping skills and to build confidence.
Clients may range from those with developmental delays to those with mental health challenges and may include children who do not have a clinical diagnosis but just need extra help.
Yancey will be offering a variety of services at her center, including direct recreation therapy, tutoring, consultation, and staff development.
The direct recreation therapy side of her agency will allow for children to come to her for private therapeutic recreation.
“I could get a small group of children together and put on play or performance, and they learn not only verbal skills but naming emotions and being encouraging to each other,” Yancey explained.
The tutoring services she is offering are geared toward all children, not just those with disabilities, who need academic help.
In addition to therapy and tutoring, DreamWorks offers consultation for agencies that might work with those with special needs.
“If groups or organizations need ideas or recommendations so that they can modify their facilities or programs, I can help with that,” Yancey said. “For example, parks may want to modify their activities and churches may want their ministries to include children with special needs.”
Finally, DreamWorks offers professional in-staff development using evidence-based training techniques. This service utilizes team-building exercises such as ropes courses to build trust, communication, and a sense of community.
A native of Bladen County, Yancey graduated from East Carolina University, where she majored in recreational therapy with a concentration in child development. Since graduation, she has been working with children with special needs in variety of areas, including being program manager, working with children one-on-one, and working with local managed care organizations.
Yancey asked, “Who are we to say that (children with disabilities) can’t have sustainable employment when they’re adults or that they can’t be on the winning basketball team? If a child is wheelchair-bound and wants to learn to swim, I want to help them make that dream come true. I want to give them the opportunity to show that they matter, too.”
DreamWorks Therapeutic Learning Center is located on South Poplar Street in the post office shopping center.
For information on DreamWorks, visit www.dreamworkslc.wix.com/dtlc. or call 910-874-8130.
Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.