The thought of a child transforming to shed their anxieties and attention deficits bring tears to Maryanne Reda and Lauri Marks’s eyes. The Westchester women sparkle with gratitude and pride when talking about their socialization programs for children and how they’ve changed the lives of the kids they work with.
Reda, a former early education/special education teacher who lives in Hartsdale, started Clubhouse Stars after noticing more and more children having difficulty socializing. Especially in an age when kids are overscheduled and constantly on electronic devices.
“I saw a need,” said Reda. “Children were lacking in social skills and initiating and maintaining friends.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, a 2016 study found that 6.1 million children have been diagnosed with ADHD. About five in 10 of those children also had behavior or conduct issues, while 3 in 10 struggled with anxiety.
Reda realized that there weren’t any socialization programs that helped children focus and maintain healthy relationships. So, she started her own.
She enlisted the help of Marks, her friend of 18 years and a nursery school teacher with a background in therapeutic recreation. The pair crafted the curriculum together and formed the company Clubhouse Stars.
“Our children receive formal education for reading and math, yet they are expected to just know how to interact with others,” their website reads. “The reality is that people need to learn how to interact with others. Although technology has made our lives easier, it has also hindered our ability to interact with each other on a personal level. However, with the proper training and tools, children can learn important life skills that are necessary throughout life.”
Their socialization programs for children are open to kids aged 3 through 12 and take place at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Ardsley. These courses use play to teach children conversation, leadership and executive functioning skills, self-regulation, flexible thinking, and initiating and maintaining social interactions.
The Clubhouse Stars curriculum uses yoga, games, breathing techniques, and role-playing to help kids overcome shyness, social anxiety, and impulsiveness to gain confidence and self-esteem. Students will learn how to read social cues, maintain eye contact, and get help with peer conflict and dealing with bullies.
“When our kids are confident in who they are and can advocate for themselves, or make a nice comment to one another, it’s so nice for us,” said Marks, a White Plains resident who is also certified to teach yoga and Zumba.
They now have about 30 kids enrolled in their classes, including a group just for girls. Reda and Marks say they look forward to expanding their offerings in the future.
“Our hearts and souls are in this program,” said Reda. “We are a place that lets all of our children shine. When we see that they’re really getting it, we know we’re doing a good thing with our program. They leave feeling successful.”
Reda and Marks say the stress and overstimulation children face nowadays is overwhelming. While kids used to have playdates and more time for recreation, they are now overbooked with sports and lessons and pressured to be college-ready and do well on tests.
Clubhouse Stars’ instructors say the anxieties kids face can start as early as kindergarten. One fourth-grader even told Marks his only wish was that he and his friends would pass their standardized tests, while a parent asked Reda how to get her 18-month-old to eat without being in front of the iPad. It’s that serious.
The lack of one-on-one time kids spend together, playing, and being carefree is much more limited. But according to Marks, it’s nothing that can’t be fixed by practicing mindfulness.
“There’s always a solution to a problem,” she told Westchester Woman. “Always a way to work it out.”
For more information on Reda, Marks, and Clubhouse Stars, visit: clubhousestars.com