From Play to Work with Hattie Larlham

On a beautiful day last week I hopped into my car and drove to Mantua, Ohio, about two hours away, to visit Hattie Larlham, the new workplace of my friend, Ingrid Kanics, an occupational therapist.  I was not prepared for my emotional reaction to this astounding multi-dimensional operation serving more than 1000 children and adults with severe disabilities.

I had started my career in Boston at a facility very much like Hattie Larlham.  In fact, Kennedy Hospital was the first place I met an OT and learned about the power of movement.  Soon after I moved back to Pittsburgh, I was introduced to Ingrid, who was busy making play spaces accessible to all kinds of children.  Her two-story treehouse at Pittsburgh’s now defunct Center for Creative Play allowed kids in wheelchairs to get a birds-eye view.

Now she is in Ohio, honing her skills with the same population of medically fragile children I served in the early 1970’s  Just look at the picture of what she has designed! Ingrid’s skills have earned her several awards for incorporating sensory skills into children’s play areas in parks and museums. 

Hattie Larlham was a registered nurse who, in the sixties, became frustrated by the lack of programs for children with disabilities.  So she and her family started the Hattie Larlham Foundation and took children into their home and cared for them. Today, this amazing organization provides residential and community care through group homes, foster care, vocational training and other services.  Its 27 acre campus is growing and changing daily.  Ingrid showed me construction of new therapy rooms, a pool, multi-sensory room, apartments and eating areas that provide a home-like atmosphere of those with developmental disabilities.

Two of the most unusual programs are the sensory playground and the art room.  The programs are truly multi-sensory.  Even the most physically challenged residents can paint and draw by working with technology and a human partner.  The art that is produced is such high quality that it sells for respectable prices at local art and craft fairs.

After the campus tour, Ingrid drove me into Hudson, a charming historic town where Hattie’s Café  and Gift Shop occupy the town’s old pharmacy.  The Hudson location is one of three cafes run by Hattie Larlham.  Complete with old-fashioned soda fountain stools and lighting, it sells lunches, fair-traded items like coffee, and home-made products, both edible and artsy.

We ate a delicious salad prepared and served by a young adult with Down syndrome.  Other employees worked in the kitchen and were making gift baskets with a variety of themes, such as “Just Ducky Baby,”  “Best Teacher” and “Doggie Basket.” All purchases support education and training. Gift baskets are great ideas for holiday giving.  To view them and order, go to www.hattiescafe.org

Hattie Larlham was way ahead of her time.  Wouldn’t she be pleased at how her ideas have grown with the times and still maintain her homestyle feel? To learn more about Hattie Larlham, go to www.hattielarlham.org

Advertisements

Tags: , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: