The Quality Active School Experience: Considerations for Parents / Guardians of a Child with a Disability
Deciding on the right after-school program is a challenging task for any family, but it may be even more complicated for parents/ guardians of children with disabilities. In order for your child to participate actively and with safety in mind, it is important to meet with the program leader in advance to ask questions and observe the program in action. Ask to speak with other parents/guardians of children with disabilities to see what their experiences have been like. Be discreet in these discussions but do not be afraid to ask difficult questions and to honestly express the needs of your child to ensure safe and meaningful participation.
What Should I Know?
Here are some typical questions for parents/guardians who want their child to participate in an after school program. If the answer to any of the following questions is “no” it does not mean that your child should not participate, however you will need to provide the after school leaders with more information about your child and his/her disability.
- What are their qualifications or experience leading children with disabilities?
- Has the leader run a program like this before? If so, for how long?
- Have they had children with disabilities in their program before? If so what kind of disability?
- Could the activity leader connect you with other parents/guardians?
- How many young people participate in the after school program?
- If there are no children with disabilities that have participated before, take this an opportunity for your child to be the first! No time like the present.
- Have you (the parent/guardian) witnessed the program in action?
- Are there steps which the activity leader could perform in order to make the program more suitable for your child?
- Is the leader fully aware & prepared to deal with your child’s specific disability?
- Is the leader willing to adjust the given program so that your child can fully engage in the activity in a safe and meaningful manner?
- Have you been to the environment(s) where your child will be playing?
- Do you have any suggestions on how it can be altered to suit the needs of your child?
- Are there obstacles/hazards that may impede your child’s safety & success in the program?
- Have you seen the equipment used for the games? Is the equipment suitable for your child? Are there alterations which could be made to the equipment & environment to better suit your child?
- Does your child have a friend or peer helper who could participate alongside? Is this individual specifically assigned to your child?
- Is your child able to engage for the full time allotment for physical activity? If not, how long can your child sustain physical exertion? Be specific.
Participating in after school programs is fun, beneficial to your child’s health and encourages new friendships. Being physically active is important for all children is important but it is of paramount importance for children with disabilities. It helps to reduce the incidence of a furthering disabling condition, reduces isolation, improves mental health and helps deal with the daily physical stress of living with a disability. Encourage your child to participate, no matter what level of ability or disability.