by Katrina Davis, Family Resource and Support, Seattle Children’s Autism Center
When you think of recreation for children, teens, and adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD), what images or programs come to mind?
Maybe you think of happy campers playing games outside, trips to the zoo, bowling, hiking, swimming, or people circled around a craft table. Perhaps you struggle with this question because you’ve had difficulty finding a program to meet your child’s unique needs.
Regardless, we all know recreation, leisure, and play are particularly important for individuals with IDD. The benefits of recreation participation provide:
- A valuable opportunity to make choices
- A sense of freedom, independence, and autonomy
- Enhanced self-reliance, self-confidence, and worth
- Opportunities to improve social skills
- Inclusion with typically developing peers
- Advocacy skills
- Reduced stress
- Increased resilience
Through play, we express ourselves, feel, move, gain confidence, and make connections. Simply put; recreation, play and leisure give us joy, freedom and an opportunity to take risks— one of the best things about being a human being!
Meaningful and appropriate recreation opportunities are also a powerful means to provide dignity and respect for those with IDD.
Finding the Right Fit
Remember the thrill of catching a ball, running in the sand, floating in the water, hiking along a wooden path, resting in a hammock, or the joy of jumping on a trampoline?
Finding a program that provides this bliss and one that can accommodate the specific and unique needs of your child will take some work–and there may be a few failed attempts. This will be no surprise for a community that is accustomed to digging a little deeper to get their needs met. However, the reward is joy, freedom, choice, and hopefully lots of fun!
Where to find summer recreation opportunities for individuals with IDD:
- A good place to start is the statewide listing offered through the Center for Children with Special Needs at Seattle Children’s. Due to a loss of state funding, the Center for Children with Special Needs closed September 30, 2018. As a result, there are no longer staff available to update this camp directory but the directory is still active and camp websites are provided.
- Your local Arc is also a good resource when seeking summer opportunities. To locate the Arc in your area, visit the Arc of Washington to find the chapter near you.
- If your child is enrolled in the Developmental Disabilities Administration (DDA) ask your case manager for a list of summer recreation programs that are contracted with DDA Respite funds.
- Seattle Children’s Summer Camp directory for individuals with autism and IDD.
- Ask other parents of children with IDD for suggestions using on-line forums such as:
Parent to Parent on-line forums.
Washington Autism Advocacy family resource line: 425.894.7231
Autism Moms of Seattle Facebook group (over 2,500 moms through WA)
Down Syndrome Community of Puget Sound
Down syndrome Outreach, a Program of The Arc of Whatcom County
Down Syndrome of Snohomish County
South Puget Sound Up with Down Syndrome
Medical and Behavioral Considerations
Consider the medical and behavioral needs of your family member when selecting the right recreational fit. Here are a few questions to ask:
- What medical staff will be present at camp?
- How are medications given?
- What behavioral training do staff have and how are behavior plans implemented?
- Are camp staff open to additional training or support to meet my child’s needs?
- How will I know what my child did during his/her stay?
- What is the communication plan if staff need to reach you?
As we approach the summer months and explore recreational opportunities consider reading Learn. Thrive. Recreate. A Recreational Therapist’s Role in Leisure Pursuits, a blog written by Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist, Whitney Ferguson, CTRS/R.
Whether your child attends a day or overnight recreation experience, you are providing him or her with a valuable opportunity for growth, exploration, and independence.
Wishing you all a safe and fun summer, filled with adventure and joy…and some treasured respite for you.
About the Author
Katrina is a mother of two children and a career advocate in family support and social services who brings a blend of personal and professional expertise to Seattle Children’s Autism Center. She has come to know autism services and resources through advocacy for her own son with autism and through her sincere interest in helping others navigate the complex maze that accompanies an autism diagnosis and the life-long journey. With a background in public health including a B.A. in Community Health, extensive experience in public health, school education, social services navigation, resource referral and case management, Katrina is skilled in finding vital services in our region and supporting individuals and families living with autism.