It is the time of year when plans are being made for summer activities. Families are looking for opportunities for their children to attend camps and other programs. Organizations that provide summer activities are in the thick of preparation as well. As part of summer activity preparation most programs provide training for their summer staff. The Arcadia Institute is part of that preparation by providing training and coaching about how to support children and youth with disabilities to be successful in programs with children who do not have disabilities. Some of the programs we have provided training for are the Southern Shores Council of Boy Scouts, the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Kalamazoo, The YMCA of Greater Kalamazoo, the Kalamazoo Nature Center, the Portage District Library, Kalamazoo City Parks and Recreation, Pretty Lake Vacation Camp, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, etc.
Throughout the training sessions, we consistently talk about the importance of getting to know the children and youth with disabilities as well as their families. Preparing for a successful camp experiences by building relationships with all children and youth is important, but it is even more important when working with participants who have disabilities.
In order to facilitate developing these relationships, we developed a handout with suggestions for what information program staff need to know from parents about their children’s needs as well as strengths. Here is a link to that handout.
Program staff has found this handout to be valuable. When staff has adequate information, they are able to include children with disabilities who attend their activities. Do challenging situations still arise? Yes, but any child or youth may struggle at times. Having a strong relationship built on knowing gifts diminishes these challenges. Program staff and parents can work together to successfully navigate rough situations.