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Autism & Special Needs Play Place Offers Quality Of Life Programs, Helps Participants Gain Independence

(CBS DETROIT) - It may appear that you're in a magical place where kids can come and have a great time when you enter The Autism and Special Needs Play Place. The place is magical, a place where those with autism and special needs can come and be themselves and not be judged.

On Wednesday, 20-year-old Jillian was doing something she loves.

"It's going really great," said Jillian Conneem, STEP Program participant.

Work that is, but for Jillian, this is not just a job, it gives her a sense of independence, something most of us take for granted.

"It makes me feel independent and trustworthy," Jillian said.

That's something she doesn't take lightly.

Jillian, along with a few others, helped out with cleaning at the Autism and Special Needs Play Place in Sterling Heights as part of a post-graduate job placement program through Macomb Intermediate Schools.

"The sense of pride in the students that cleaning up after all that, you know they leave very happy that they've contributed and made something better," said Jeff Whittle, a Paraprofessional with the Macomb Intermediate Schools.

This is just one of many partnerships the center has with the community. Besides teaching participants quality of life skills, the center offers a lot of fun.

"Swings, snacks at our bistro, we have a reading loft, we have a lego castle where you can build on the walls built on tables, we have a bouncer, we have video games a computer café," said Shell Jones, Founder and Executive Director of the Autism And Special Needs Center Play Place.

Everything at the center is designed specifically for the special participants. From children to adults of all ages.

"This whole center is for those who are not judged," Jones said.

There's even a barbershop that makes getting what could be a challenging haircut, easy-going, allowing the customer to go at their own pace no matter how long it takes.

Jones has a personal reason for being so passionate about the center she opened 6 years ago.

"My son being diagnosed with autism at 2 ½ he's now 19," said Jones.

She says her parents appreciate that she can relate to their challenges.

"You don't have to say I'm sorry, it's we understand and we get it," Jones said.

As for Jillian, she says, being in the STEP work program gives her high hopes as a future chocolatier.

"That I'll be a strong independent worker," said Jillian.

The center is a non-profit and operates on donations. They are also in need of volunteers. Click link below for more information.
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