When most San Antonio area school kids return to class next week, some 40,000 of them will rely on YMCA sponsored after school programs, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
The 'Y' offers after school programs at dozens of locations all around the metro, and Abby Nash, who is the YMCA's Executive Director of Youth Development, says about one in ten of the kids who will arrive at 'Y' after school programs have special needs, many of them not obvious to the 300 after school counselors.
"Sometimes kids have gone through trauma, sometimes they have emotional needs, sometimes they learn differently," she said. "Those are things you don't necessarily see."
So, working in conjunction with a company called Assessment Intervention Management, all of the counselors this week are undergoing training in how to deal with the mainly elementary children who will start coming in next week, to handle them well and deal with the special challenges they face.
Nash says after school kids will come in with a wide variety of special needs, from ADHD to Autism and other challenges. She says if a child comes in in a wheelchair, it's easy to determine that child needs special attention. But with many high performing special needs like Asperger's, that is not always immediately noticeable.
She says the counselors are being taught how to 'empower the staff with knowledge to best help kids of all capabilities, improving the quality of our services, and providing access for kids with different needs.'
"This could be something as simple as putting masking tape on the flood to show kids where they are supposed to line up, or using visual schedules instead of just relying on words."
The C.E.O. of A.I.M. Zach Salesman said of the partnership, “Kids with special needs can benefit greatly from someone who understands the challenges they face and works with them in a way that is intentionally meaningful. The Y is leading the way in our community by putting words into action, helping kids of many different capabilities take advantage of the opportunities they deserve.”