March 14, 2019 – Today I had the pleasure of visiting Alexa’s Playful Learning Academy for Young Children (PLAYC) and the Autism Discovery Institute (ADI), located just across the parking lot from the Rady Children’s Health Services (Plaza) building. My guides Shelley Turner, Andrea Wilson and Themba Carr joined me on this journey, and little did I know we would be time-traveling!

Receiving my souvenir collection bag

Traveling back to 1995

We first hopped back to 1995 — before there was an Alexa’s PLAYC. At that time, this location housed the Children’s Child Care Center, which provided daycare to both infants and toddlers. As we walked by the colorful present-day classrooms, which are all named after sea creatures (Whale, Walrus, Octopus, Shark and Dolphin), we also jumped ahead to 1998. This is when the Toddler School opened on the main campus in Building 23, which is now just a memory — it was demolished to clear the way for the Education and Office Building. The Toddler School was a first-of-its-kind inclusion program that placed children on the autism spectrum in the same classroom with their typically developing peers.  At that time, there was one classroom with 12 children (eight typically developing, full-time students and eight children on the spectrum — four in the morning and four in the afternoon).
My time travel continued into 2010, which was a big year for Rady Children’s. Thanks to a generous gift, the Child Care Center was remodeled to become Alexa’s PLAYC and the ADI. The ADI provides comprehensive services and advanced research into autism spectrum disorders. Here, you’ll find all of Rady Children’s renowned diagnostic and treatment services under one roof, as well as programs to help families have positive experiences and interactions with their child. The team includes clinical psychologists, board-certified behavior analysts, behavior associates and speech-language pathologists.

2010 marked the opening of Alexa’s PLAYC and the ADI

After a quick stop in 2016, when the Torrey Hills ADI opened (providing many of the same therapies as on the main campus) we arrived in 2018, when a second Alexa’s PLAYC location opened in southwest Riverside County at the new Murrieta Medical Plaza. This new center has two classrooms (Giraffe and Elephant)

Awesome artwork created by kids!

and is such a great resource for families who now have an Alexa’s PLAYC in their own neighborhood. It just goes to show you how Rady Children’s is on the leading edge of taking care of kids not only in San Diego, but in our greater region. My tour ended in one of the therapy rooms, where I got my passport stamped and received an amazing piece of artwork that was colorfully decorated with the fingerprints of PLAYC kids! I walked away knowing that with such a passionate and dedicated group working to accomplish our mission, these kids are in great hands.

Into the ball pit!