The Devil's Dish

2014 Cronkite High School Summer Journalism Institute

PAL Experience offers opportunities to individuals with disabilities

Elle Baynham, ten, pulls her pizza creation out of the oven in the museum’s imaginary kitchen. This exhibit has always been Baynham’s favorite. Photo by Thomas Oide

Elle Baynham, ten, pulls her pizza creation out of the oven in the museum’s imaginary kitchen. This exhibit has always been Baynham’s favorite. Photo by Thomas Oide

By Allyson Vasilopulos

With the regularity of intellectual and developmental disabilities in today’s society, it’s more important than ever for individuals facing these daily difficulties to be comfortable in their own skin and their community.

Programs such as Partner to Assist in Learning (PAL) Experiences seek to make this assimilation easier, ensuring a predictable, approachable, and enjoyable atmosphere.

PAL Experiences partnered with Civitan Media, a program that presents people with special needs the opportunity to acquire skills in videography, editing, and website development. The most recent project, filmed June 16 and 18, was “Children’s Museum of Phoenix PAL,” which followed ten year-old Elle Baynham through her museum adventures.

Baynham has been a part of PAL Experiences for about a year, and appreciates the opportunities the program provides.

“She just loves participating in these activities that allow her to explore things without feeling like she’s being looked at or judged,” said Jen Baynham, her mother.

Elle Baynham, star of the latest Civitan Media production, tries to catch a ping-pong ball as it shoots into the air. Filming for the project took place on June 16 and 18. Photo by Thomas Oide.

Elle Baynham, star of the latest Civitan Media production, tries to catch a ping-pong ball as it shoots into the air. Filming for the project took place on June 16 and 18. Photo by Thomas Oide.

Out of all the exhibits available at the museum, Baynham’s favorite was the kitchen and shopping center. At this interactive display, children could live a grocery shopping experience or create their own pretend culinary pieces.

PAL Experience is still a work in progress and will continue to develop in the future, but those involved in the program are optimistic about its effect on the public.

“We really need to have the rest of the community understand that we’re not all the same. We just have to appreciate that,” the elder Baynham said.

Roxy Cohn, a videographer from Civitan Media, is confident the program will offer a positive experience for Baynham and other kids struggling with similar disabilities.

“She can actually learn and grow up the way she is, and make sure she is accepted for who she is,” Cohn explained.  “I think this program will help a lot of kids who have these differences.”

Afraid of being judged or drawing attention to themselves, many parents of disabled children are hesitant to get their kids involved in the community. But with the opportunities for communication and transition that PAL Experiences provides, assimilation is achievable.

“When they [the kids] are able to see in advance what’s expected of them, then they can adapt to the situation a lot better,” the elder Baynham said. “It just makes it more enjoyable and pleasant for everyone.”

 

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