The Chase Donoff Special Needs Program touches 100+ families annually for an inclusive, enriching, instructional and recreational program. We focus on individual needs and work closely with the participant’s families and the school system to help each child reach his or her full potential. Other local programs for children with special needs are expensive, limited on the days offered, and/or not as comprehensive.
The program is designed to offer a unique, quality after school experience for youth with disabilities in a safe environment while providing opportunities and experiences that develop each participant’s potential in spirit, mind and body.
The program includes children with all disabilities and is meeting the rising needs of programming for children with autism. In fact, 80% of our participating children have been diagnosed with autism. Parents are assisted in the proper procedure in navigating the school system. The program is inclusive of trips for social development and life skills training, as well as, community trips to inclusions with children in our other Y programs.
The program also addresses a serious problem many young adults with special needs face. Those ages 18-22 years transition from students in public school to adult members of our society, without the tools necessary to succeed. (Students with special needs are able to stay in school through age 22.) Upon graduation the students require additional development and life skills training to care for themselves in and outside the home, gain occupational skills and reach their full potential. Learning independent living skills such as cooking, paying bills, grocery shopping and cleaning will best prepare participants. The special needs after school program at the YMCA of South Palm Beach County provides this essential component.
Because the YMCA’s program is the only one of its kind in the area, we serve families in Boca Raton, as well as, the other surrounding areas of south Palm Beach County.
The objectives of the program’s activities are to develop participants in one of the four key areas of:
1) communication/language skills
2) physical (gross motor and fine motor) ability
3) problem solving/ cognitive
4) social/emotional skills.
Activities vary from child to child based on his or her special needs and goals. The program operates during the school year. Goals and objectives are also assessed and shared with the school district to provide the most comprehensive information for each student’s Individual Education Plan.
Data is collected using: verbal surveys, attendance logs, counselor assignment sheets, daily activity schedules, parent surveys, informal inquiry groups with parents, and staff meetings. We also work closely with Florida Atlantic University and ARC of Palm Beach Co. through the CARD program which results in behavioral and developmental plans for each child.
Short-term outcomes: Up to 30 children will participate in structured after school or camp activities daily, 25 families will receive financial subsidy and/or financial assistance, 100% of staff will be trained in inclusion curriculum, 75% will engage in physical activity daily
Long-term outcomes: Increased develop in at least 1 of 4 key areas communication/language skills, physical (gross motor and fine motor) ability, problem solving/ cognitive and social/emotional skills; notable improvement in the social skills interaction with typically-developing kids on a regular basis; help each child become more active and healthier as they engage in sports or recreational activity; assist children in exploring new social and life-skill situations; support families of participants with financial assistance.
The demand for the special needs program is extreme. In fact, we always have a waiting list. We are one of the only organizations in the area offering afterschool care to school age children and youth with autism and special needs. The YMCA of South Palm Beach County feels the program is vital to our community and has sustained it despite the continuous need for additional funding.