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Looking for childcare can be a challenging task for any parent, let alone a parent of a children with special needs. For Oscar and his mum, Samantha, vacation care is crucial for their family, as it provides them with so much more than just time and space.
“Oscar is an extremely active child who loves being outdoors. This proves tricky at home because we live in a townhouse with a very small courtyard and I don't drive which makes outings difficult,” says Samantha.
“Oscar has severe autism and a characteristic of autism is that they can be very rigid with routine and get upset and agitated if their routine is disrupted. Oscar can also be unpredictable and can sometimes become aggressive or run off without warning, so even walking Oscar and his little sister to the park is not a chance I am willing to take.”
Oscar is now going to vacation care run by FSG Australia at the Currumbin Community Special School. He is thriving in an environment where he has lots of space to roam and explore.”
Samantha expresses the significance of the vacation care staff tailoring activities to suit an individual child’s needs, the positive impact it’s had on Oscar and the sense of relief and reassurance for her.
“It is a great weight off my shoulders. The FSG staff have been very good at not forcing him to do organised activities but follow his lead.”
FSG Vacation Care Coordinator, Syreeta Jennings, describes the importance of finding a child’s passion and then building on that to increase their desire to learn and discover more.
“When Oscar arrives in the mornings, he goes straight out to the swings for a play and also the sand pit area in the yard. The staff extended Oscar’s interest with water and sand play. We filled a plastic shell up with one side full of water and one side with sand. Oscar mixed the two components together and sat in the water splashing. When we add different components to the sensory play, Oscar becomes very excited to explore the new things.”
To those without a lived experience with special needs or disability, Oscar’s goals at vacation care may seem quite basic compared to those without special needs.
“Oscar has reached some goals and achieved new ones along the way. He has learnt how to swing himself on the swing. He is now regularly using sign language for ‘please’ when asking for things and also asking verbally for his ‘hat’ and telling us when he is ‘happy’,” says Syreeta.
Samantha points out that often it is not simply a matter of time and space, but a matter of the overall mental wellbeing of the family unit.
“When we had no vacation care options it was extremely tough. Oscar’s behaviour deteriorated being stuck at home all day. He became violent and aggressive. This had a very negative effect on our family’s mental wellbeing. Knowing Oscar is having his needs met in a learning environment is wonderful. I know he is happy and safe.”