Pizza parties are always fun – whether in the United States or China, especially when you are six years old and can make your own pizza! Beyond fun, creating your own pizza can also be therapy. In fact, it can inspire hope – a glimpse of ability instead of disability.
Four families from different towns and villages came by train to participate in our pizza party therapy. Each family had a child with disabilities and needed encouragement. At home, these impoverished families lack access to therapy, much less anything as interesting as a pizza party. It was their first time ever participating in something like this.
The boys and girls, who were just six years old, put on their aprons and hats and were almost immediately transformed into little creative pizza chefs. They rolled out the dough and spread it on the tomato sauce and cheese. Then they cut up the veggies and sausages. Some of the little chefs were missing fingers, but their little newfound friends gave them some assistance with the cutting. Seeing them helping each other out was a beautiful moment- genuine teamwork and a sense of belonging.
The therapy wasn’t just for the kids. The parents also received some much-needed support and encouragement. They were able to see what their kids were able to do, which was something beyond any of their expectations. It was rewarding for the occupational therapist, counselor, and other team members to see the faces of the kids and their parents light up with so much laughter and joy. Not to mention the pizzas themselves. The little chefs each shared their pizza creations with each other. They even had enough for leftovers to take home.
We have heard from many parents of children with disabilities. They love their children deeply, but the challenges of everyday living can be overwhelming. What a blessing to encourage these families who have chosen to raise their children with disabilities!
Pizza party therapy is one of the ideas that we want to share with other NGOs and organizations working with families of children with special needs. They, too, can experience the many benefits of teaching the kids and their parents and supporting and strengthening the family unit. Philip Hayden Foundation continues to help children with disabilities and their families in China and worldwide. Your donations to medical care will provide this therapeutic activity training to local charities, helping to strengthen families.