From the October 2015 issue

RJ's Place at The Children's Center in Detroit for Kids with Autism

In the autism world, the HollyRod Foundation – founded by actress Holly Robinson Peete and husband Rodney Peete, a former NFL quarterback – is a well-known name. And the nonprofit has brought one of its key programs here to local families.

An “RJ’s Place” just opened at The Children’s Center in Detroit this August. These unique rooms, named for the Peetes’ eldest son, who has autism, are a refuge for families of kids with autism as they’re receiving treatment. They’re particularly focused on siblings and technology. This one’s reportedly the first to arrive in Michigan.

“(It’s) just a calm and soothing place for families and kids to grow,” says TCC behavior therapy administrator Kristen Cyrul. “The families we work with are undergoing a lot of stress. So by having a place to just come and relax – that’s very important.”

The center’s group room was renovated with a HollyRod technology grant. It’s a bright, engaging space filled with instructional software. That includes 30 new tablets with subscriptions to PuzzlePiece, which has ASD-specific tools, apps – “and fun games,” Cyrul says, “to get the kids interested and socializing.”

She adds that apps give kids with autism more control over day-to-day choices, and a tablet’s easier for parents to lug around than the older-school big binder with pictures in it.

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HollyRod also donated 50 copies of Robinson Peete’s award-winning picture book My Brother Charlie, “which helps children learn about what it’s like to have (a relative) with autism,” Cyrul says. Clings of the book’s art cover the walls, too.

The foundation, first created in 1997, aims to bring “help and hope to those living with autism and Parkinson’s disease,” its website says. It offers grants to open RJ’s Place locales at children’s centers and hospitals around the country.

The Detroit spot, geared at ages 18 months to 17 years, complements TCC’s efforts to help the special needs community thrive.

This space is available to families involved in TCC’s ongoing services. Costs vary depending on your insurance coverage plan. To learn more, contact the call center at 313-262-1212 or visit thechildrenscenter.com or hollyrod.org.

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