BE THE REINFORCEMENT: Beacon of Hope builds larger, interactive Candyland cottage

Published 3:11 pm Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Beacon of Hope ABA has made improvements to its Christmas in Candyland cottage on the Square with a larger and more interactive building for visitors to enjoy.

This year’s cottage has more space than the previous year’s cottage, which is adjacent to the current one.

“This year, we have more space for our cottage. We are excited about this one because it is all on one level and accessible to everybody. The city has put a ramp on there for us. All of the interactions are on the inside walls at the kids’ eye level. Everybody will be able to come in and enjoy it,” said Beacon of Hope Owner Shelby DiPilla.

When children visit the cottage, they will be able to engage in sensory-engaging activities.

“When you first walk in, there is a sensory touch wall on the right side. The little squares have all different types of squares. Some are sequined, some are soft, and there are several more textures. We have sound buttons on the back wall, and you will hear a different Christmas song when you push each button. There are also some spinners you can spin and a lot of different activity boards and small instruments. The left wall has all kinds of magnets, and children can put little gears together and turn them.”

According to DiPilla, gross motor and fine motor skills are very important.

“For kids with autism, those skills tend to be engaging for them and help get their attention. We also put special lights on the outside and inside that are projector lights. The great thing about Christmas lights is that they are not super bright, which is what kids with autism typically prefer,” she said.

This year’s cottage has a blue exterior with several colors of puzzle pieces representing autism and other learning disabilities.

“We wanted people to see this is the cottage representing autism. We have puzzle pieces on three sides and our neurodiversity sign on the backside facing the road to the Square. It not only stands for autism but represents all brain differences such as ADHD learning disabilities because we are all about inclusion and making sure everybody participates.”

DiPilla stated that a lot of time went into making this year’s cottage possible with help from her staff.

“We are blessed that Kayla Craig is very good at working with her hands. She got it put together, and the rest of us have come in with our ideas of decorating it. I don’t even know how much time we put into it, but we spent several days getting it ready. At times, individuals with autism are not represented, especially at things with a lot of people like Candyland. I feel like our decorations can show them that they are a part of the community, too, and bring awareness and hopefully acceptance. Autism diagnosis rates are going up, and it’s important to remind the community they are a part of it as well,” she said.

Beacon of Hope ABA held a “Sensory Santa” event before this year’s Christmas parade.

“This is a unique event because kids don’t wait in line, and Santa will get on the floor and play with them. Parents can take those special pictures because there is usually a long line waiting for children to sit on Santa’s lap, and that’s just a no. We make it adaptive to them and want to make the kids happy. We want to give our parents as many opportunities to get and receive pictures from us,” DiPilla said.

The Beacon of Hope clinic in Andalusia is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. and is located at 109 O’Neal Court. Other locations include Opp, Enterprise, and Ozark.

For more information email beaconofhopeaba@gmail.com, visit www.ababeaconofhope.com, or call 334-477-4686.