In April Embracing Ministries had our first Little Treasures Holiday Program. Little Treasures is a holiday program designed to include all children regardless of their ability. It gave 35 primary school children the opportunity to learn the Easter story, make new friends, and have fun in a supportive and loving Christian environment. In the program we offered many activities to cater to the individual needs of all the children on the program, both for those with disabilities and those without. In Little Treasures programs, inclusion means that children and youth with disabilities or special health care needs are actively participating in social, educational, and developmental opportunities along with their peers without disabilities. One family asked to share their experience of Little Treasures, and how their son was fully included.
School holidays for families with children with special needs are far from anything that defines ‘relaxing’ or ‘fun’. If anything they are the opposite. The child is distraught due to the change in his daily routine and the lack of structure which a school day would usually have. The days become an endless round of stress and challenging behaviours and everyone prays for the term to begin again.
When I first heard of Little Treasures, I jumped at the chance of having our boundless bundle of energy and cheekiness, Sydney, enrolled. The fact that it was a program that was conceived by Andrea and her team gave me all the confidence that I needed that it was going to be the best thing for Sydney.
But what further blew my mind was the thought that they had put into every little detail regarding what the program could give to the child.
Since Sydney was a non-verbal boy with autism and with a high dependency on supports for even his most basic needs like meal times and toileting, I was told that he would be looked after one-on-one by a highly trained support worker. When I was introduced to Mary-Ann, she took the trouble to visit me and to learn all that she could on how to look after Sydney.
We were also emailed a social story about the program to read to Syd which helped our son a great deal as he can otherwise get very anxious about new places.
As a family we were invited to attend a ‘meet and greet’ day before the program commenced and that was a wonderful way to be introduced to the place, the people working there and to the community of parents and children at large.
I’m writing about all this activity prior to the program starting because for Sydney, preparation is half the battle won for a successful outcome and Andrea and her team understood that and walked with us every step of that path.
And what can I say about the actual program itself! It was a resounding success because it not only gave my son a safe place to spend time in but they had a comprehensive and creative daily schedule that allowed him to observe, participate, learn and immerse himself. The facilities with their amazing outdoor areas and several indoor spaces created a wonderful environment for him to thrive in.
But the best part of it all for me as a parent of a child whose world can be socially very isolating was the chance for Sydney to be in an inclusive program where he could mingle and socialise in his happy, carefree, non-verbal manner and be accepted as just another happy, energetic kid. The value of that was priceless. As an exhausted mum, the time I received to get my chores done and to know my son is well taken care of is priceless. What did Sydney himself think of Little Treasures? Well you just couldn’t wipe the smile off his face for the entire three days when he was there.
Thank you Little Treasures team for the gift of your program and may God continue to empower you as you empower those amongst us who need it more than others.