Arts Based Activities 4 Special Kids

Between school struggles, therapies, and the challenges of “play dates,” it can be hard to imagine your child with special needs taking part in after-school activities. The reality, though, is that the right after-school programs may be terrific opportunities for your child to show his strengths, build confidence, make friends, and discover new interests.

Why After-School Activities Matter

Often, parents undervalue after-school activities for their special needs children. They may be more focused on their child's academics or therapies or feel that there just isn't time or money to bother with extracurriculars.

• Many kids with special needs also have impressive talents, regardless of learning disabilities, social issues, or speech delays they may be dealing with. It's important to recognize and build these talents, especially when your child's challenges are so often the focus of discussion.

• The skills your child learns after school can be as important (or more important) than the skills he learns in school. In school, your child is working on handwriting, standing in line, academic skills, appropriate classroom behavior. After school, your child may be learning to be part of a team, to support and encourage others, or to try new things. He may also be learning the rules of well-known games, earning respect, and building friendships. These are skills that will last a lifetime.

• After-school successes build confidence and respect.

• Some after-school activities can become lifelong interests. If your child gets interested in music, art, sports, dance, chess, or any other cultural activity while in school, that interest can provide an outlet throughout her life.

Extracurricular Activities

Instead of or in addition to music therapy, consider enrolling your child in a singing or instrumental program that actually teaches and celebrates skills. If your child can learn to sing, he will always be welcome in a chorus. If she can play an instrument, she can join the band. These are not only entries into school-based programs, but also hobbies to enjoy throughout life.

Many kids who have a tough time picking the right words and actions do very well when acting from a script. Acting clubs and camps require no audition and can be a great way to get started. Some kids with special needs discover they have a real talent for acting.

Many children with special needs are quite talented in the visual arts. Schools and community art centers often offer after-school programs in drawing, painting, clay, and even multi-media art.

Several tweens and teens with special needs have great interest and skills in video and a/v. Many middle and high schools have video and A/V clubs, and many towns have local TV stations where kids can get involved. Even if your child is not a creative videographer, she can find opportunities to be confident and valued behind the camera or managing microphones.