How many times have you attended a school or community function and realized that it was going to be a difficult situation for your child. This was a huge problem for us because the space was too big, or too loud, or too bright. Typically, within 2 minutes Jacob would lose it and we would have to leave abruptly. Eventually, we stopped attending school events. One day, I was thinking about this and realized that we were not alone. Many families with children like Jacob were probably frustrated as well. So I decided to present the issue of inclusion to our district PTO (parent teacher organization). Before doing so, I sat down and composed a one page list of suggestions for inclusion at after school events. This list can be used for any organized group that has been challenging because the correct supports have not been in place. I hope that my list can help you move forward in your community.
Suggestions for inclusion at PTO school functions
-Consider having a quiet zone for children that may need a break from noise and stimulation i.e.: library, Occupational Therapy (OT) room or available classroom.
-Ask the principal and/or support service staff to “reach out” to families that have children with IEP’s. These families may not feel connected to the community and a personal invitation could make them feel included.
-If a school event will be having a DJ and a microphone will be used, consider having the first 30 or last 30 minutes with “toned down” music and limited use of the microphone.
-Consider posting a picture schedule or signage with all the activities for that event. Many children become overwhelmed if they are not able to visualize the sequences.
-When there is an event that is skills based or “sporty”. Consider including a statement on the flyer or email “All ability levels welcome”. Many parents are concerned about the perception that their child will finish last, not be picked for a team, not be as coordinated, etc. This may be an opportunity to speak with the adapted PE teacher.
-Meet with school support services staff, such as social worker, OT and speech therapist prior to an event. If there are Special Education teachers, speak with them as well. Ask them what the PTO can do to help accommodate all children so everyone can attend.
-Consider including a statement such as “To request specific disability accommodations, contact (name), at (phone), at least (___) days before the event.” This could be stated on all flyers and advertisements, so that the entire community can see that the district values diversity and inclusion and is explicit about their events being open, accessible, and welcoming to all.
-Consider establishing a PTO point person to review accommodation requests. The point person should facilitate the request by contacting the appropriate event organizer to address the concern or request.