OREGON – The Oregon Park District is excited to announce our Inclusion Program is officially kicking off in February 2018.
Inclusion within the Oregon Park District means individuals with special needs are blended into the same recreation programs and activities as their peers. The Oregon Park District will work with you to provide reasonable accommodations to enable the participant’s successful involvement in a program.
The Oregon Park District has always made accommodations for individuals with special needs participating in our programs, but is excited to kick off our official Inclusion Program for our patrons. Using our past experiences, we have taken the time to create internal procedures to include a chain of command and training by Ogle County Educational Cooperative for our staff. This will allow staff to be better equipped to work alongside a wide array of individuals with special needs allowing a better experience in our programs.
In 2017, the Oregon Park District took a more conscious approach to accommodate these needs in two of our programs. The swimming lesson program implemented the Angelfish program through the Starfish Aquatics Institute. Instructors completed and were certified through additional courses. The aquatics department successfully accommodated five swimmers into group lessons this past year and had several returning for multiple sessions. In the summer, Camp Oh-Pea-Dee served an additional five campers with the accommodation of a companion.
In 2017, Katie Shea, a camp parent, had a child in Camp Oh-Pea-Dee with special needs. Below she shares some thoughts on her experiences.
“My son loved Camp Oh-Pea-Dee. Having a place to play and interact with peers made a big difference in his summer. Our whole family benefitted from the experience. I don’t know what we would have done without it. I know that it is not always easy to be inclusive, but I believe that all children benefit from being exposed to others with differing abilities. We were so pleased to hear reports from his companion that other children asked about him and missed him when he wasn’t there. You can imagine how great this made us feel. Thank you so much for your willingness to work with us! Until I became a parent of a child with special needs, I never considered the challenges of finding childcare and social activities. It is hard. There really isn’t an understanding of the widespread benefits of inclusion for all kids. It’s not just about childcare. It’s about friends and interacting with the community. I know these are not easy issues and my beliefs about inclusion have certainly not always been as strong as they are now. I just want to assure you again this is valuable work that you are doing making inclusion a priority. Perhaps your program could serve as a model for others someday. There is such a great need.”
The Oregon Park District provides year-round programs for patrons with and without disabilities that focus on skill development, independence, socialization, sense of enjoyment and self-awareness. Inclusion services are offered to create an opportunity for people with special needs to participate in the least restrictive environment and be included in all Park District programs. Inclusion allows the participant to participate in any Park District program with the support of an inclusion companion or other accommodations.
Through a comprehensive approach, the Oregon Park District is confident that we can better serve individuals with special needs in any of our Park District programs. At the time of registration, the participant or guardian simply checks the box indicating a need for a special accommodation. An employee will then contact the participant or guardian to discuss further details to provide the best choice to allow the individual to be successful.
For more information or questions contact Amanda Zimmermann at Amanda@oregonpark.org or 815-732-3101.