The reason for HRHI is simple: To provide opportunities and experiences, not naturally occurring in the environment, for those who have communication or interaction issues. The need is clearly seen as we consider communication development and the communication/ interaction challenges faced by many at various stages and circumstances of life. For the sake of brevity the focus will be speech.
Communication is built on multiple, fun, child-directed interactions that are responded to by others. Typically, an infant babbles and people in their environment react. These people may be Mom, Dad, other family members or total strangers. (Who can resist a little one smiling and babbling while waiting in a grocery line?) These vocalizations are naturally imitated with excitement and delight as they are repeated countless times everyday, eventually being interpreted in meaningful ways. A baby makes the sound ‘ma ma’ and suddenly Mama appears smiling and joyfully snuggles her baby as she exclaims, “You said Mama”. What once was a random sound is now suddenly associated with a very important person in the baby’s life. What happens however, when babies are born unable to make those sounds or even move in expected ways? They may move their toes, feet, fingers, head or change their breathing patterns but no one notices. Even if they did notice, would that movement be associated with anything meaningful? Would someone see the movement of the child’s mouth and say – “Oh, I see you moving your mouth – ‘are you thirsty’ or ‘are you saying Hi?”(Especially if the child is no longer an infant) Celebration comes only when the “spectacular” or the “important” is observed.
Most children who use atypical means of communication are not given the opportunity to use their “special abilities” in a consistent way as they interact with their environment or with the people they see on a daily basis. Home Run Hitters Int’l is an organization that provides settings in which fun times of practicing and using those special techniques and abilities can be realized. In addition, through training, the special abilities of each individual are recognized, encouraged and celebrated then developed and used for meaningful interaction.
Who benefits from these opportunities? – Certainly the individuals with communicative, cognitive-communicative or interactive challenges benefit. They finally have an opportunity to be noticed for the things that they can do and to have those things appreciated and applauded. They have a chance to compete, impress, participate on a team and win prizes – something most people experience throughout their childhood. This brings up the next group who benefits from our activities – the parents and family. Parents suddenly have a new topic of conversation when talking about their son or daughter. They have things to brag about and celebrate. The last group that benefits from our programs is the volunteers that choose to team with our participants. The fun, competitive atmosphere generated by our activities, draws the best out of most people while pushing back the mundane for just a while. Everyone involved receives a new level of esteem recognized by others as competitors and winners.
The final reason to consider our program is that of transition. When considering a move from one program to another, one care provider to another, one teacher to another, one school to another, or the move from the public school years to the post school years of adulthood, what are the most important things to you? Having environments that continue to provide safety, personal care, with stimulating, challenging, respectful and successful interactive opportunities is very important to assuring the best in quality of life. Home Run Hitters Int’l offers our participants continuing opportunities to develop and use skills for interacting with their environment and the people they see on a daily basis as well as with special friends. The experiences they will have through Home Run Hitters Int’l will provide fun-filled memories, ongoing relationships with volunteers and the increased potential for building new relationships in the future! Respite is a part of the future plans for the Home Run Hitters Int’l organization. Our hope is that transitions beyond the home and school environments will be easier as we enhance the interactive quality of respite and other care environments.
More compelling than all the above reasons for the program’s existence is its propensity to increase the chances of each individual coming to understand and be understood/ while knowing and being known by others.