Bayside pool party helps disabled kids

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The Bay Terrace Center hosted a pre-school pool party last week for children with developmental disabilities and their families.

About a dozen or so families ´╗┐splashed around in the center’s kiddie pool, enjoying a respite from the hot weather while at the same time giving the children the opportunity to build essential social skills under the watchful eyes of professionals.

“The benefits of water play are tremendous for kids with special needs,” said Barbara Dodell, a special education teacher at the center, at 212-00 23rd Ave. in Bayside. “Living in Queens, we don’t have a lot of opportunity to participate in pool activities.”

Thursday’s pool party was the kick-off for the Samuel Field Y’s weekday summer recreation program, now in its sixth year. Funded through a state grant, the program serves children from 3 to 5 with twice weekly recreation programs at a cost of $5 a week. On Wednesdays through Aug. 10 from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., the Y, at 58-20 Little Neck Pkwy., provides children with gym and creative exploration activities.

“The kids can climb up a ladder and over a balance beam. There’s low basketball hoops and slides and tunnels, and they also play the parachute game,” said Gerrie Mayerhoff, co-director of the special services program. “We hope the children improve their socialization skills. It’s also an opportunity for parents to meet each other to talk and bond.”

On Thursdays through Aug. 25 from 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., the Bay Terrace Center will offer an outdoor recreation program followed by some aquatic fun in the pool.

Gina D’Angelo, of Whitestone, waded in the pool with her sons, 3-year old Cristian and 5-year old Julian, who has sensory issues and motor-skill delays.´╗┐

“I think it’s a great program. We’ve been in it for two years now,” she said. “They do gluing and arts and crafts and touch-play with Play Doh. We’re able to bring their siblings, and many of us do.”

Little Neck resident Gerard Sardina said his 3-year old son, Andrew, was in his first year of the Y’s after-school program. Andrew, who is autistic, laughed and squealed as he played with his father in the pool.

“It’s great. He loves the water; it’s where he’s in his zone. When Barbara told us about the pool, we were really excited,” said Sardina.

Andrew’s mother, Dianna, said the program gives parents an opportunity to discuss which therapies, vitamins or medications are working for their children, and which ones are not.

“Most important, it helps the kids socialize. Often, that’s their issue,” she said.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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