Are we ever really ready for this? Doesn’t it always feels like Christmas was just the other day, and now the weather has warmed up, and when can we go swimming already?
But summer programs fill up. Auditions and applications and forms must be prepared for, applied for, signed, filled out, practiced for… well, you get the idea. It cannot be overlooked and handled at the last moment.
Procrastination – he’s pretty much my constant companion… is he your friend, too? – must be held at arm’s length and ignored for a bit.
So here are some things we usually look for in summer programs:
- Adult supervision. Plenty of it. Our kids can be disruptive – hey, it’s best to face reality – and that can be challenging for a single adult to handle. Especially when he/she has to deal with 20 other kids at the same time.
- Programs open to volunteers. Not everyone can spare the time, but we – and by “we” I mean them, my son, and I – are always happiest when I can help out. It prevents many misunderstandings, and frees up the instructors to focus on what they do best.
- Small groups. Our kids work better in smaller groups. There’s less noise, less craziness, less chance to get overwhelmed… and therefore less chance to either meltdown or shut down.
- Area of Interest. If the day camp doesn’t sound fun or interesting to our kids, they’ll approach it with less than 100% enthusiasm. Starting out the day with an angry, resentful child does not usually translate into a fun time for anyone. Including the child in question!
- Safety. This depends on your child. Is he/she fully aware of what’s going on around him/her at all times? Does he/she wander? If so, that unfenced area near the road may not be the best idea… better to find a similar program in a fully enclosed, well-supervised space.
- Shorter may be better. A lot of our kids are simply worn out after a few hours of any activity. They’re dealing with overwhelmed senses, complicated social issues, possible learning disabilities, and the list goes on. Who wouldn’t be exhausted?
- Familiarity. Have we worked with the people before? Have we participated in the program in the past? Has a friend recommended the program? It’s so much easier to communicate with people when we know them. Or even know someone who knows them.
- Is the staff familiar with Asperger’s Syndrome, autism, or any kind of special needs? This can make a huge difference in everyone’s comfort level and success. If you aren’t sure, prepare a brochure (Snapshot Brochures For Teachers), and/or speak with the people ahead of time. Surprising someone with a child who’s a little different can have negative repercussions. A head’s up is always appreciated, even if you don’t anticipate any problems. If they’re not willing to take your child after this, then you probably didn’t want him/her there in the first place.
Good luck out there!