Parents sometimes wonder if their child can participate in extra-curricular activities at school:
Instead of asking, “Can they?” let me encourage you to ask:
The special education paperwork is called an Individual Educational Program (IEP). An IEP should be tailored to your child’s needs. The IEP includes academics, functional skills, and extra-curricular activities.
Activities outside of the classroom improve a child's quality of life. Often, with therapies and remedial services, children with disabilities miss out on the fun events. Parents need to be intentional about planning things their child enjoys, discussing them in the ARD, and making sure these activities are included in their IEP.
If no one else begins the conversation about extra-curricular activities, you can bring it up. Ask which clubs are available or what activities or events are coming up. Then ask what supports would enable your child to participate. Sometimes the ARD committee will need to be creative about what would help the child participate.
Consider what might be needed. Be sure the accommodations are written into the IEP.
Here are some suggestions for natural supports for your child:
Is there another student who could help? Are there jobs a peer could help with? Students are usually eager to help.
Maybe your child cannot read music but wants to be in choir. She could get a recording of the music instead. Picture charts or picture schedules could be used to help with reminders and organization. Adapted paintbrushes or supplies help a student with fine motor issues. Large print books might be helpful for book club.
Think through the scenario: What does your child need?
Sometimes all it takes for a child to participate is an extra adult. An adult can offer added safety or direction. And usually an extra adult will benefit the whole club or group.
Does your child need a bus with a wheelchair lift? If so, specify it in the IEP. Don’t assume students without disabilities will travel on the same bus. Specify that other students should ride with your child.
Does your child need to stand on the bottom of the risers for safety? Does the club need to meet in a downstairs classroom to accommodate your child? Ask yourself about the setting of the activity, and its implications on your child.
Never assume your child can’t be a part. With planning and creativity, he or she can participate in student activities.
You can find additional information on creating a good IEP on this website at Your Child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP).
Critical thinking and problem-solving skills go beyond academics. Everyday life provides opportunities to apply these skills. During my son’s educational career, a lack of critical thinking and problem-solving skills was often noted in his Individualized Education Plan paperwork. While he may struggle with these skills academically, he solves problems all the time in his daily life.