Children's activities and programming has been a constant topic of conversation in Strathmore, whether it's parents creating new programs or social media conversations about what's out there, it's a topic that is usually at the top of parents' minds. But what about activities for children who are differently abled?
Stacey Kinley is the mother of a child who needs adapted activities, being a seven-year-old who has some sensory struggles, is visually impaired, and has gross and fine motor skill deficits. While many programs say they are open to all abilities, Kinley explains this may not always be the case, even if the program itself means well.
"How do you expect some of these kids to run through an uneven field or find the ball to kick, or bat? There aren't any programs developed for these kids in mind," she said.
Kinley hopes to address this problem by potentially creating a space for adapted activities, or raising awareness about the need for adapted activities so that more programming could be created to suit everyone's needs. She emphasized she doesn't mean to criticize currently existing programming, as her main focus is creating an inclusive space for all. Programming for what she called typical kids may exclude differently abled kids, even if it's unintentional.
"These children have the same desires of any other child. They just want to play and have friends. They don't want to be stared at and questioned all the time. Programs aren't developed with their needs in mind, so I envision a program that is developed around the needs of these kids but then includes everybody. Anyone else can join, but first and foremost, I'd love to see a program developed around the needs of these kids."
The need for adapted activities is high, as Kinley explained activities are an important part of anybody's life. Besides the general enjoyment and social aspect of taking part in activities, she added it can also create a big boost in mental health, while not having any activities to take part in can have the opposite effect.
"Our seven-year-old, she's all of a sudden coming home from school and telling us the things she can't do, that's not a language we often use in our house. She's feeling the things that she cannot do and that impacts her mental health."
While the need for adapted activities for the children is clear, Kinley added overall, it would boost the entire family's mental health. As a parent of differently abled children, she explained a lot of her time is spent advocating for new programs and inclusivity, so having a program where she could simply watch her kids enjoy themselves and speak with other parents who understand this would be good for her social life as well.
What would it take to bring this programming to life? With enough interest, Kinley hopes to collaborate with other parents and interested parties like the library or schools to bring adapted activities to life. This could range from sports and physical activities to music and the arts.
"I'm envisioning something that's geared towards school age kids. There are programs for the youngsters (toddlers) before school starts, right? There are programs for adults. There are programs for seniors. But there's definitely something missing for these school aged kids that have varying needs."
For Kinley, what it ultimately comes down to is creating a space where children of all different abilities can flourish and simply be children, rather than have to worry about what they can or can't do.
"Our daughter, she just wants to be like her peers, she wants friends, she wants to grow. She, like so many other kids, have fought so hard to even just survive that it would be nice to just see something a little bit easier for them and easier for their families."
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