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“Beyond Autism Awareness into Acceptance” – Connect & Play on Autism Awareness Day Preview (Tuesday April 2nd, 2019)


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“Beyond Autism Awareness into Acceptance” – Connect & Play on Autism Awareness Day Preview (Tuesday April 2nd, 2019)


You Can Find Out More About Connect & Play Day From Our Choose954 Podcast With Creator Dr. Jennie Trocchio, Owner Of Autism Education and Development Solutions

Beyond Autism Awareness into Acceptance

By Kristen Maikoo For Choose954

March 28, 2019

Play is a worthwhile form of learning, says Dr. Jennie Trocchio. “When you’re playing, every single area in the brain lights up and starts connecting to each other,” she says. She believes it’s sometimes even more effective than rote memorization in a classroom.

Trocchio is part of a group of therapists, calling themselves the Connect and Play Team, who are organizing Connect and Play on Autism Awareness Day to connect the community on April 2, 2019. Held at South Side Cultural Arts Center and neighboring Florence C. Hardy Park, it will take place from 4:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Attendees can expect carnival games, bounce houses, live music, face painting, and food trucks. Admission is free.

Comprising the team is Dr. Lina Moyano, Sarah Galvan, Erika Olmedo, and Trocchio. Moyano is a clinical social worker with the Children’s Relationship Center. Olmedo is a speech-language pathologist and founder of Communikids LLC. Galvan is a music therapist who is part of a musical duo known as The Bows and Ties. Trocchio is an autism educator offering services via Autism Education and Development Solutions. 

While the event takes place on Autism Awareness Day, declared as such by the United Nations in 2008, the focus is on play as method of learning and acceptance of all community members. Moyano says, “We are promoting acceptance, and we want to foster an inclusive environment where everyone is invited to play together regardless of their neurological differences.”

Trocchio believes that there is already awareness of autism. “Now the next step is to accept everyone into our communities,” she says. Organizers want the event to facilitate connection as well. “It’s kind of a way to connect the parents with resources, the kids with each other and just to have a really good time, celebrating and meeting other people in the community,” says Trocchio.

This is the second year that South Side is the venue for this event. Most activities will take place outside, but a sensory room inside of the building will be available to attendees seeking a break. At times, children on the spectrum may feel overstimulated by a certain amount of sounds, socializing, visuals, and other facets. “There’s often a point where it gets to overload,” says Trocchio. The room inside, known as the Chill Zone Sensory Room, will have sensory toys.

“There’ll be balls to bounce on, things that vibrate, things to squeeze, things to color, things to blow — I mean all senses can hit,” says Trocchio. “Just having that option is really helpful. So it’s like if you’re having a hard time, you don’t have to go home; we’ve got this chill zone all set up for you. Chill, relax, come back out when you’re ready.”

Olmedo appreciates celebrating differences between atypical and typical children. Children with autism experience challenges daily, “but at the same time…they have strengths that we may not recognize on the ‘surface.’” Olmedo says, “I believe with that comes the acceptance that people with autism, despite their challenges, can become great contributing members of our society as well as the understanding of the support they require from teachers, families, and professionals involved.”

April is known as Autism Awareness Month and while other events will take place throughout the month in Broward County, “This is the only one that is actually on Autism Awareness Day,” says Trocchio. Autism Speaks Broward will have a fundraising event on April 20 called Battle of the Badges. The Broward Autism Foundation is planning its annual celebration on April 6. The Exceptional Fitness Foundation will partner with the Town of Davie on April 13.

To mark Autism Awareness Day, international landmarks light up in blue. In reference to Autism Speak’s campaign, Light It Up Blue, encouraging individuals and organizations to wear blue and switch out light bulbs for those of a bluer hue, South Side will bathe its building in blue.

South Side Cultural Arts Center, previously South Side School, was among Broward County’s first elementary schools. The school operated from 1922 to 1990 before it was restored as a cultural arts center in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

For future events, Trocchio has visions of the mayor cutting a ribbon and saying “’Beyond awareness into acceptance, Fort Lauderdale!’ That’s, like, a vision I have; we’re not there yet, but I’m going to keep emailing,” says Trocchio. She also hopes that Julia, the first openly autistic character on Sesame Street, could make an appearance.

Those interested in volunteering or sponsoring can learn more at www.bit.ly/ConnectAndPlay2019

“We’re very excited about this and we hope everyone who joins has a great time celebrating neurodiversity!” says Moyano.


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