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Guest Blog By Jessica Duncan, Fun4TallyKids.com

After-School Care should be something to look forward to for every child and parent, but if your child has Autism / Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), sometimes finding the best fit can be difficult. You want the best care for your child, and it can be overwhelming to search through the many after-school care programs Tallahassee has to offer.

Before enrolling your child, there are some specific things you can ask the care program’s owner to make sure staff is qualified, experienced, and open to inclusion in their after-school care programs.  

  • What is the ratio of staff to kids? You may even go further to ask if they have availability for one-to-one staff when needed. The added attention to your child can help them to feel included in activities, and to make sure any outburst or issue that may arise is handled in a positive manner. 
  • What are the qualifications of your staff and after-school counselors? Don’t take a simple “yes, they’ve been trained” as an answer; ask about the specific training that was provided, including: Applied Behavior Analyst (ABA), Autism Spectrum Disorder Specialist (ASDS), Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), and Registered Behavior Technician (RBT).
  • Do your staff members and after-school counselors have experience with kids on the spectrum? There are some after-school care programs in Tallahassee with over 20 years of experience!  Some care programs are brand new, but their staff and counselors may have experience working at other programs or camps. Just ask.
  • Will you consider my child’s specific challenges in group situations? Many after-school care programs have forms for parents to fill out so that every need can be met when it comes to individual personalities, interests, and behaviors. 

  • Can you provide a visual schedule? Your child may have less anxiety if he/she can see pictures of what to expect at after-school care each day. If the program doesn’t regularly provide this, many of them will be more than happy to show you pictures of the activities and fun their kids have.  
  • Will my child be integrated and included?  The correct answer is “Yes.” The program’s owner should tell you that they make sure all of their campers are included in groups and activities, that they teach kids about inclusion, patience, and making friends with children on the spectrum, and staff encourages kids to help one another.  
  • Will the after-school care staff communicate with me, the parent? Your child may not be one to jump in the car after camp to tell you all about their day, so communication is very important between the staff and parents. Find out if they are willing to provide you with a written note at the end of each day letting you know how their day at camp was, or you might ask to speak to a staff member who was with your child that day when you pick them up.  
  • Will my child be safe? This is an important question and concern for a parent of any child. The bottom line is, when you know your child is safe, YOU can enjoy your day.  

In addition to finding the answers to these questions when looking for an after-school care program, be sure to choose one that you think your child will actually be interested in.  

Jessica Duncan is the owner of Fun4TallyKids.com, an online resource for families to find things to do with and for their kids. To see a comprehensive list of resources in the Tallahassee area, visit http://fun4tallykids.com/. Follow on Facebook, and subscribe to receive weekly events email at http://fun4tallykids.com/Newsletter-Signup/. She can be reached at jessica@fun4tallykids.com or (850) 877-4357.