DALLAS — Judy Mikelski kept a close eye on her service dog, Cowboy, as she made her way around the different activities at Misericordia University’s “Gobble Till You Wobble” event on Nov. 14.
Mikelski, 11, was one of many children with autism that attended the event. At one activity, she sat on the outside of a parachute with Misericordia University students. Foam balls were thrown in the middle, and Mikelski shook the parachute to cause the balls to bounce around.
One managed to gently hit her in the face. Mikelski then crawled underneath the parachute, making her mother, Gerri, laugh.
“She likes to hide,” Gerri said as she looked on with Cowboy. “She’s a hider.”
The Misericordia University Chapter of Autism Speaks U sponsored “Gobble Till You Wobble,” which provided an afternoon of Thanksgiving-themed activities for families that have children with autism.
One event enabled children to make “sensory bottles” by filling them with colored rice, marbles and other items.
Volunteers explained that the bottles can give autistic children a tool to play “I Spy” games with. Other activities at the event included a selfie station with Thanksgiving-themed props, turkey decorating and coloring.
Nicolina Davidson, club president of Autism Speaks U at Misericordia, said it is the first year that the college has had the event. The goal, she said, was to give autistic children and their families a day with fun, Thanksgiving-themed events.
“We wanted to have a fun-filled day to bring the kids in and have a day filled with activities and fun for them,” she said.
Davidson explained that the club has only been in existence for two years, and “Gobble Till You Wobble” is its first big event. Proceeds from the event will benefit the organization, which she said will be used for similar events.
“We’re hoping to increase our size,” she said. “This year was kind of our trial run to see how we’d do, and it’s turning out really great, which is awesome.”
Davidson expected up to 30 children at the event.
Lori Charney, assistant professor of occupational therapy and adviser for the student organization, said the students thought of the event and came up with the activities.
For the children taking part in the activities, she said it gives them the opportunity to “patiently and positively” interact with others.
“I think sometimes we go to activities and they get a little wild, and they’re bright,” Charney said. “Sensory wise, it’s hard for the children to handle those things.”
Instead, she said the goal was to create a calm, engaging environment to encourage children to interact.
Gerri said she brought Judy to the event to give her daughter an opportunity to have fun and the opportunity to interact with other children.
“They benefit her by allowing her to mingle with other people, socialize and do things that encourage her sensory,” Gerri said.
Andrea Vomero brought her son, Alex, 11, to the event. She explained that her son is autistic and also has Down syndrome.
Vomero heard about the program through the newspaper.
“When I read the information in the newspaper, I was excited to hear something in the community was for kids that was free,” she said. She also added that her son, who was hard at work making his own sensory bottle, enjoys similar activities.
“It brings the kids together and they can socialize,” Vomero said. “A lot of them don’t have people that they can socialize with or that they can play with.”
Reach Travis Kellar at 570-991-6389 or on Twitter @TLNews