Sensory-based therapy helps children with special needs
By Chris Fish
BREVARD -- Kristen Malfara is determined to finish her 11-year goal of creating an adequate facility for children with special needs by the end of January, no matter what obstacle comes her way.
"When I broke my leg on Thanksgiving, everything just came to a screeching halt," said Mrs. Malfara, who lives in Melbourne Beach. "You never know what each day will bring. At the moment, nothing is in a fast manner."
Mrs. Malfara is accustomed to difficulties at this point in her life: 11 years ago, she created The M.O.R.G.A.N. Project, a nonprofit organization established in honor of her son, Morgan, 15, who has a rare genetic disorder that affects the central nervous system. Morgan is diagnosed with Leukodystrophy, an infliction which can lead to a gradual decline in body tone, movements, speech, ability to eat, vision and behavior.
With The M.O.R.G.A.N Project, Mrs. Malfara and her husband, Robert, first started offering equipment, such as care seats and other items that insurance companies do not always cover, to parents of children with special needs.
After years of helping families with children with special needs, Mrs. Malfara said she stumbled upon a therapy used in the Netherlands for people with autism or developmental disabilities called Snoezelen.
Snoezelen therapy places an individual in a soothing and stimulating environment known as a "Snoezelen room." Using lighting effects, colors and sounds, the person in the room is stimulated by various forms of wireless interaction.
After discovering this form of therapy, Mrs. Malfara was determined to bring Snoezelen to Brevard County, and, earlier this year, she opened Morgan's Place in Melbourne Beach.
"Snoezelen is a sensory-based and wireless therapy," she said. "You can make a light beam activate and other (sounds and visuals) through different ways (depending on the individual)."
However, despite the new facility offering an alternative to play areas for children with special needs finally being opened, Mrs. Malfara said she quickly realized that there just was not enough space for the activities the children she helps required.
"When we built the facility, we had enough room for one-on-one care, where we can help someone physically get out of a wheelchair (and interact with the room)," she said. "We didn't build it for ones to run around. It was for gentle use. So we set our sights to find something a little bigger."
Luckily, Mrs. Malfara found the perfect facility in Melbourne to expand her Snoezelen therapy, and, if all goes according to schedule, broken leg and all, the new facility will open by January.
Morgan's Place accepts children with special needs from any location by appointment only. Despite how interesting and fun the facility may seem for siblings to the child with special needs, Mrs. Malfara said the facility is only for children with special needs.
Now, with the new facility becoming a reality, and her organization still helping children with special needs from areas throughout central Florida, Mrs. Malfara intends to rest and mend her broken leg.
"Things are kind of stalled at the moment," she said. "All you really can do is keep a sense of humor about the whole thing."
The new Morgan's Place will be located at 4241 N. U.S. 1 in Melbourne.
For more information, or to make an appointment for someone with special needs, call (321) 506-2707.