What do you do after school?
Deciding what to do after a long day at school can be difficult for any child or young adult. Do you do your homework, hang out with friends, watch TV or play video games? Parents are often very involved in making sure their children have something to do. Questions about activities for after school become even more difficult when you have a child or young adult with a disability. Parents have to consider the supports that are needed in order to make sure their child has a structured and supervised afternoon. While some parents are home when their children get home from school in the early afternoon, many parents are working. Most families these days rely on two incomes to support their household. Therefore, parents must look for supports from the school or community for after school care.
Unfortunately, finding after school programs poses several barriers for families with children with disabilities. For one, many after school programs are for younger children. This is a major challenge for families with transitioning young adults who still require a supervised and supported afternoon. Not only are these programs for younger children, but they are for children that do not have disabilities and high needs for support. Generally, the after school programs have an adult to child ratio that cannot support young adults or children who cannot be independent. Another barrier for after school programs is that they usually are not free. The expense for after school care is another challenge for families to figure out a structured afternoon.
Schools can be a great resource for families with children and young adults with disabilities, but often close the doors after the school day is over. Schools need to rethink how the value of after-school activities could be used to help children and young adults work on many of the social, emotional, leisure and everyday-life skills. With additional supports after school, we could see many gains in student success during the school day. Resources and staff time would be a limitation for schools to implement after school programs. However, community organizations that support individuals with disabilities could collaborate with schools to create after-school programs that would address a huge gap in the system of care. It’s time for schools and organizations to think outside of the box and partner with families to meet student needs.