Donations help Hopebridge simulate natural environment sessions 


Children with autism often struggle with going to the dentist or getting haircuts because of the sensory overload caused by bright lights or noises from buzzing clippers or motorized chairs.

Registered behavior technician Madeline Smith simulates a haircut with a Hopebridge client.

The therapy team at Hopebridge Autism Therapy Center in Fishers had an idea to seek donated items so affected children could simulate visits. The team reached out on Facebook Marketplace to acquire donations for the natural environment sessions.

Fishers residents donated a barber shop-style chair, hair trimmer, scissors, mirror, cape and water bottle to recreate a salon station. They offered a dental chair, aesthetician light and glasses for a mock dental office.

“It’s been incredibly helpful to be able to take them into the real-life environments,” said Meghan Bramstedt, a board-certified behavior analyst for Hopebridge. “It’s not something that every center gets the pleasure of having, but the hard work we did getting all the items donated, we are able to work on these things daily.”

Bramstedt said most of the children are at the center daily for 7 to 7 1/2 hours.

“So, we get to practice those skills multiple times a day,” she said. “Then by the end of our program, they get to go out into the community and do these things, so it erases the burden from their parents’ lives that they can master those skills without any issues.”

Bramstedt said the children the center serves are usually between 2 and 9 years old.

The team also was able to stage a bedroom with a bed, dresser and clothes rack so children could practice household tasks.

“They’ve been able to work on daily living skills, like making the bed, folding clothes, hanging up clothes or sort clothes appropriately. All those things we were able to target because of people of the community donating to this room,” Bramstedt said.

Hopebridge has been open in Fishers for just more than a year.

“Everybody that donated something had their own special connection to a person with autism,” Bramstedt said. “We would love to get a doctor’s table so we could simulate doctor’s visits.”

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