As the summer holidays approach, this time can be a cause of anxiety for children who are out of routine for 8 weeks as well as their parents and caregivers who may struggle to find things to do.
When you have the added stress of having a child with a disability, activities which other children and their families find fun could have the complete opposite affect due to extra crowd numbers and noise.
Every child is different, so finding the right activity is important. Here are some Adelaide (and surrounds) based activities to consider:
Arts and Craft – craft activities, painting, drawing, stickers, chalk
Water Play – buckets, cups, boats, balls, paintbrushes
Build a Castle – pillows, chairs, table, sheets
Create a Reading/Play Nook – move furniture, blankets, pillows, books
Sensory Play – shaving foam, play-doh, floof, slime, magnetic sand
Gross Motor Play – trampoline, fitball, musical instruments
Caring for a child with special needs is challenging. It can also be thankless, relentless and make parents feel invisible within their friendship groups and families.
The best way to support carers is by making them feel like they are not alone in their struggles. Joining groups that are designed with carers in mind is a good option. I am a big advocate of Carers SA, soon to become the Carer Gateway in April 2020. However, not everyone wants to be a part of a group situation, preferring 1-1 support and familiar people only.
It is important to provide carers with choices about the type of support they need. It might be a peer support group, 1-1 counselling, carer outings or simply family and friend gatherings in supportive environments.
Providing a safe environment for the carer and the person they are caring for will be greatly appreciated and may work to ease the social isolation that many carers feel in their role. Planning inclusive events may require a little extra effort but asking questions of the carer about what would make it a more successful event for them, will go a long way in helping them feel enjoyment and a sense of belonging.
A short video powerfully depicting the importance of being grateful and mindful for what you have in life.
A little thing you can do to practice gratefulness is to keep a journal and write a point or two each day about the things you were grateful for. It could be as simple as a chat with a friend that made you feel special, a goodnight kiss from your child or a delicious cup of coffee that you didn’t have to make yourself. You will be surprised at how many beautiful moments we overlook each day. Take the time to remember and cherish them. If you wrote 2 each day, there would be 730 happy memories to be grateful for and mindful of each year.
Working with children can be a challenge, especially if they are not keen to work with you in return. This list outlining ‘The 7 Drops’ is something all practitioners and educators can try to aid building connections and relationships with the children they work with.
Drop your voice – lower your pitch. Show interest in what the child is doing with your voice, your facial expressions and body language.
Drop your body – get down to their level. If they are on the floor playing, ask to join in on what they are doing. Initiate taking turns if they will accept it.
Drop what you are doing – take your time to get to know them. Leave note-taking and other work for later, make spending time with them your priority.
Drop your guard – let them take risks. Encourage them to try different things and get messy and creative while doing it.
Drop your defences – keep your agenda to yourself. This is about the child’s development. Building a real connection and relationship needs to come from an authentic place. Set goals with the child so you are working towards the same outcomes.
Drop your batteries – turn your devices to silent and give them your full attention. This creates less distraction for you and good role-modelling for them.
Drop your misconception that fun is frivolous – learning through play is powerful. Rediscover your inner child and follow their lead. Have fun!
Taking a child with a disability out into the community is often accompanied by other adults averting their eyes or pretending not to see you, especially if your child is making high pitched noises or moving awkwardly. If these adults are also parents, you might hear them tell their children tersely, ‘don’t stare’ before quickly moving their children away from you and the offending noise.
When I arrive at my son’s school to pick him up, there is always one student there who comes running to the gate and who I affectionately call the welcoming committee. She is always on the look out for parents, letting teachers know whose parent has turned up and even giving updates on how far away your child is. She is the first to smile and wave to me and I always make sure I get out of the car, regardless of how busy or tired I am to go over and say hello. Sometimes children who are non-verbal also wander up to me curiously and I always make sure to warmly greet them too, offering them a high five as this is the way they greet each other at school.
Wouldn’t it be incredible for parents to start teaching their children to ‘say hello’, instead of ‘don’t stare’? So don’t avert your eyes – it takes a few seconds to warmly smile and say hello, even better if this is followed by a friendly wave or a high five. Such simple gestures can make the world of difference in someone else’s life and have the power to change their whole day for the better.
“All kids want to play. Kids with disabilities are no different. “Ian” is a short, animated film inspired by the real-life Ian, a boy with a disability determined to get to the playground despite his playmates bullying him. This film sets out to show that children with disabilities can and should be included”.
Short Film about Playground Inclusion wins International Acclaim: Article