PLAY Project at Work


Written by Savannah Heck

Life with Dhameer is never boring–his energy is contagious, and his love of play keeps his family busy. “He likes to play until he’s tired. Then he rests for two minutes and goes to play some more,” said his mother, Nyema. Playing with Dhameer is a joy for his mother, because he didn’t always want to engage with the people around him. Dhameer has Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD.

If affects his ability to relate to others. “He goes to hug other kids a lot, and when they don’t expect it, and they reject him. It hurts his feelings,” said his mother. “He used to not make eye contact, either.” Relating to Dhameer was even difficult for his mother at first, but through the OhioGuidestone PLAY Project, she learned that Dhameer just needed supported in different ways.

Nyema knew that OhioGuidestone could help her son, because they had counseled her through maternal depression after having Dhameer. “When we began noticing a change in behavior from Dhameer, we reached out to see what OhioGuidestone could do,” she said. Dhameer and his therapist first began working through behavior problems in 2014. The initial sessions made it clear that there was something different about Dhameer, and he was diagnosed with ASD.

As Dhameer has grown, OhioGuidestone’s autism services have, too. Since the PLAY Project began in 201X, Dhameer has worked with his therapist through play therapy. The PLAY project uses techniques for parent-child relationship building, and works on achieving individualized goals. Dhameer’s Mother’s goals for his future through the PLAY Project are ambitious. Currently, loud noises make Dhameer upset and set him into fits—Dr. Courtney Gotschall, Assistant Director of Community Counseling, and Nyema are looking to work on his extreme reactions to sensory overload.

With his family’s help, Dhameer will develop his skills and grow. Nyema is optimistic about his future. “I want to have my children grow comfortable with themselves as adults. That they know who they are and don’t feel out of place,” she said.

Dhameer’s outlook on life will always be different. For this, his family is grateful. “I’ve learned that having a child with autism, you have to be stronger,” said Nyema “I never thought that I had what it takes for raising him, but I do.” The resiliency that comes from overcoming obstacles is something that Dhameer will learn to value, just like his parents.

For now, though, Dhameer will continue to play and experience the joys of childhood, and his family wouldn’t want it any other way.

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