By Alicia Doyle

The Writer
Specializing in Good News
Your Subtitle text

Photo by DAVID YAMAMOTO/Ventura County Star

Oxnard offers outlet for special needs children

August 12, 2014

OXNARD, Calif. - Chencho Suarez, who was born with autism and is nonverbal, typically shies from community activities because he fears how others will treat him, his big sister Rosa Suarez said.

"He doesn't want to be out in the community because he doesn't want to be afraid," she said.

Chencho's attitude changes, however, when he attends the Day at the Park event through the city of Oxnard's Recreation and Community Services Department, she said. The three-hour event caters to children and adults with special needs and physical challenges.

"He comes here and meets different people. ... It motivates him to want to be out instead of at home," Rosa Suarez said. "These people know what his needs are so they understand; he's not going to be criticized for what he does. They are very positive with him."

Chencho Suarez, 19, his sister and parents were among about 80 children and teens with special needs and their families who gathered on Saturday for the Day at the Park at Oxnard Beach Park.

Offered on Saturdays several times a year, the event is free and lets children engage in activities with one-on-one support from city staff members and volunteers.

"The kids come up for free, and they pick what they want to play and one of the staff goes around and plays with them," said Robert Collins, program coordinator for special populations.

Saturday's activities included horseshoes, croquet, magnetic darts, card games, hurdles, whiffle ball, inflatable bounce house and Oxnard City Corps' wagon train.

"We serve anyone on the spectrum from high-functioning Asperger's (syndrome) to kids who can't speak or function without help," Collins said.

The effort is set up on the south lawn at Oxnard Beach Park, where activities typically also spark the interest of children from the general public, he said.

Kids with special needs tend to be socially isolated, Collins said.

"They don't have any general-population social life whatsoever, therefore they don't have any social skills," Collins said. "There are no social events, no bowling night, no family fun night. There's no place for them to go. This gives them a sense of ownership and belonging."

In Chencho's case, city staff members and volunteers understand and get involved with him, Rosa Suarez said Saturday as her brother played croquet.

"Here he can have fun and have friends," she said. "These are people who understand his language."

Adriana Benitez said her son, Jorge Benitez, especially loves the inflatable bounce house.

"In the beginning when I started with him, he didn't want to participate, and it was really hard. But little by little he initiates now," said Adrianna Benitez, whose son has severe autism.

"When he has social interaction, his behavior improves. Before, he would run around and ... now he can sit still," she said. "Sometimes parents don't want to take their children out because of their behavior, and they don't have extra help. But here there are a lot of people around to help us."

Alisa Duimovich, whose son, Alex Duimovich, 11, was born with cerebral palsy, said the boy enjoys playing magnetic lawn darts when he spends a day at the park.

"For typical kids, going to the park is an easy, everyday thing, but for these families it's not as easy to just go to the park and have them play," said Duimovich, of Oxnard. "This is set up for kids who need to do things a little differently."

Learn more: Upcoming Day at the Park is Oct. 18. For more information in English, call 889-5368; for Spanish, call 385-8019.

Website Builder