Afterschool Professionals Build Inclusive Spaces for All Youth Through Training with The Arc of Palm Beach County

The Arc of Palm Beach County, a Prime Time expanded learning opportunity (ELO) provider ensures youth with disabilities can participate in out-of-school time (OST) programs alongside their peers, through their community inclusion program. The Arc offers inclusion trainings to OST practitioners that focus on the needs of youth with development disabilities, offering interactive strategies and activities that encourage appropriate communication, emotional awareness, and social interactions. 

OST Practitioners learn about the characteristics of different disabilities and participate in hands-on exercises that convey what it is like to live with a disability. These activities build understanding among practitioners and promote the inclusion and acceptance of all youth. The Arc’s specialized, on-site instruction ensures that interactions between practitioners and youth with developmental disabilities are positive and effective, fostering positive social relationships that benefit other youth in OST programs.

Throughout the pandemic, The Arc’s Community Inclusion Specialist Christin Martin, continued to provide vital inclusion training virtually. Participants received two sensory items for youth enrolled in their programs, including glitter bottles, water bead bags, putty and find-and-seek bottles. Putty activities help children keep their hands busy while providing stress relief and aiding focus, making for a great brain break. Sensory bottles, which are often referred to as “calm down bottles,” contain items like glitter that move slowly through the water in the bottle. Practitioners guide youth through the process of creating these glitter bottles, so the youth can use them to steady their breathing and regulate their emotions by focusing on the movement of the glitter.

“I will be forever thankful for Christin and the Community Inclusion Program! She gives great advice for interacting with students of all abilities and comes up with wonderful ideas that we can implement in the program right away. All of our students benefit from the inclusive activities she teaches practitioners, helping to promote acceptance between children with disabilities and their classmates.”  

KImberly Sheehan, Afterschool Director, Palm Beach Gardens Elementary Afterschool Program

Afterschool professionals participating in the The Arc of Palm Beach County’s Community Inclusion Program receive specialized training, instruction and support to facilitate the inclusion of youth into their programs. The goal of the Community Inclusion Program is to ensure that OST programs in Palm Beach County are accessible to children with developmental disabilities.  The trainings, observations, youth-specific coaching sessions and outreach opportunities are ongoing and provided as needed. Contact Christin Martin, The Arc’s Community Inclusion Specialist to learn more.