Friday, April 7, 2017

Parks and Rec: Inclusion & Therapy Programs


Did you know that local city's Parks and Rec Departments have therapy sports programs as well as inclusion programs? Have you used either one?

My daughter has attended classes at an all abilities dance studio and she's done activities through our city. In the two different cities where we've lived, I've used the inclusion program for swim lessons and gymnastics. It's meant more work on my part (as in: emails, phone calls and follow-up emails), but it's been worth it. From personal observation, it appears to be an underused resource, which means that you are possibly unaware of it or hadn't considered using it.

Here's how the inclusion program has helped us. My daughter had a helper in gymnastics class. For group swim lessons, they added another teacher to her class. She didn't have a one-on-one teacher; they just put another body in the water near her. Also, at my request, they put her class near the stairs so that she had a place to take a rest since she doesn't have the ability to hang onto the wall.

After the two weeks of group lessons, I enrolled her in private swim lessons. I wanted her to have the same instructor she had in group lessons for the purpose of consistency and familiarity. This took a little doing because the private lessons rotate teachers instead of just using one person for the duration of the lessons. But I got it worked out - so long as I was willing to attend based on the instructor's availability. No problem.

One day at swim lessons, I noticed a much older girl with some developmental disabilities who didn't want to get in the water. It appeared that was, in part, because she had a different swim teacher than the day before. I ended up talking to the mom and mentioned the inclusion program, which she had never heard of.

Here are our tips for using the Parks and Rec Department's inclusion program:
  • Give them as much advance notice as possible that you want to enroll your child. 
  • Give them as much information as possible about your child's needs. 
  • Ask questions about the kind of equipment, nature of the instruction, so that you can figure out beforehand if something extra or adapted is needed. 
  • Show up early to the first class so that you have extra time to meet with staff. 
Have you used any of Parks and Rec Department programs for your kids with special needs? Was it beneficial?

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