SUMMER IS HERE!
School ends this week, Thursday for those of us in Florida (Pinellas County). Thursday is an early release day. Why does the school district do this to us?! Why are you even taking them? 8:30-11:30 that is not helping us working parents, now you have added more scheduling, after school transportation and care. Then add having a child that has special needs. Clearly the district wants to make parents work harder and spend time with their children at this time, sounds very similar to the quantity of homework expected to complete weekly. Not that I don’t want to spend time with my children, I love them but I hate how changes to the schedule make like so “pleasant”. This brings me to summer plans and the major problems.
ESY- (extended school year)
(laughing) Common sense that children with developmental delays should qualify for this service. NOPE. It’s hard, confusing and inconsistent to get a decision on qualifying for ESY. It’s down right criminal to treat preschool children with language, occupational, global delays, etc… with no support services for the almost ten weeks of summer. Then if the team decides that the child meets the requirements it varies on what services the child can actually get. My son has been in the public school programs since he turned three. Every year I have tried to get ESY and “not qualified”. This year, my son was somehow emerging in enough skills that he could qualify for the service. However, it would mean only three hours a day at a special needs school with only other special needs children. Not that this is bad, but he has been in a blended model. It would also mean that we would have to transport him or put him on a bus. How on earth does it make any sense to put an ASD child that needs adult supervision within arm length on a school bus to a school he doesn’t know with teachers and students he doesn’t know? So, I turned down the service and told the district compliance officer that my son didn’t need three hours but in fact needed six hours of one on one therapy. It was a long telling off because of my frustration that built up for years, leading me to find my own summer plans.
Summer Camps for ages 3,4,5
Finding a summer camp for a preschool aged child is nearly impossible. Heck, finding a decent summer camp for elementary and middle school students isn’t an easy task either. Add finding a summer camp that will take my ASD son! Then there is the cost. Most parents understand paying to send their kids to summer camp for fun and field trips. For parents with special needs children, we are already maxed on therapy and medical expenses and then we have to pay for a safe place during summer that most likely will not know how to deal with our children. Many parents don’t tell camps or centers that the child even has special needs. Because this population and age group is so undeserved many parents are left with few choices and decide to not tell everything about their child so that they have a place to start summer. I know that this doesn’t seem right but working parent(s) are sometimes in survival mode and have to do whatever they can to make it work.
Camps for Special Needs
In Pinellas County I know of three camps for children with autism. Camp Coast at the YMCA in Clearwater, PARC Autism/Sensory Integration Camp in St. Petersburg (Tyrone) and Summer on the Spectrum with South Pinellas Autism Project (SPAP) in St. Petersburg at the YMCA (Gills Branch). The only one of these three that takes children under the age of five or kindergarten is PARC. PARC takes ages 3-9. I have done research and it does seem that Hillsborough has several camps as well. Many parents would have to drive out of their way to get their child to one of these special needs camps in order to get to and from work daily.
Often, parents make these choices because it is better piece of mind each day. Special needs children often fall victim to abuse because they speak less or have poor communication skills to report what happened. Depending on a child’s needs many children often run or try to escape when in uncomfortable environments or to simply get attention. Without proper training this relationship can lead to unsafe camp environments and often lead the camp to ask parents/children to leave for safely concerns. During summer, many students are not able to receive ESY or private therapy. Even though the child is in need the complete lack of services and access to appropriate environments is giving us a huge continued at risk population.
Please share any new camps for your preschoolers or special needs children in our Pinellas/Tampa area so that we can continue to solve our access problem, and check out the Pinellas suggestions and contact us if you have any questions.