Last week as I sat in the waiting room of Sensational Kids, in Ormond, where my son has regular interventions, I was almost overwhelmed by the intensity of the needs in the room. The needs of the kids (mostly pre-school aged); the less obvious needs of the parents, all doing our best to get our children the support they need. Not so long ago, I’d been them; was still them, just a little further down the track. Who’s supporting us – the parents – while our kids get the input they need? When we grapple with what’s required of us to implement the changes and strategies recommended by the endless rounds of (costly) experts to unlock our children from their individual barriers?
I’m lucky to work for an organisation – the YMCA – that really does care for families, and that provides real and practical support. For employees, there’s part-time work (I couldn’t manage my families needs without this), flexible hours, and the opportunity to ‘buy’ additional annual leave to help families manage school holidays. For staff at our recreational centres, there’s also the opportunity to take advantage of the excellent child care and creche facilities on offer at many.
There’s also our new Family Membership, that blows away the cobwebs of the ‘traditional’ family unit of mum, dad and two kids, to welcome families of all kinds. We also provide support for families through support networks Parentlink and Dadslink, big on providing fun, recreational and social activities for families to come together. Pizza nights, family camps, day trips…isolation-breaking experiences. We provide school holiday programs and outside school hour care. And, critically, there’s subsidised support for families who can’t afford full fees, through YMCA Open Doors. Last financial year in Victoria we provided more than 3,100 inividuals (including many, many families) with support in this way.
From 4th to 8th January next year the YMCA is running a Family Camp, at Anglesea. If I wasn’t already on a family holiday of my own, I’d be there with bells on! All meals provided (my personal favorite), the opportunity to ‘hang’ with other families through the witching hour, and on the beach….as well as during the organised activities. Plus a very nice roof over your head and very little to do in the way of domestic duties. What’s not to like?
It doesn’t matter if your child has additional needs, or not. All children have needs. And at times, every family needs some extra support. Sometimes just being with other families can be therapeutic in itself. I know that I’d rather be on a family camp, with my son and the rest of my family, than constantly in waiting rooms. There’s a place for both. I’m glad to work for an organisation that helps me realise – and access – this.