If you have been following my social media page, you have seen how much I love planning and attending community events. Since this is my passion, I thought I would jump on here and explain the process I go through in finding community organizations to partner with and plan events.
First, I thought I would list the different community events I have planned to give you an idea of some options.
- Hair cut event
- Sensory night at a public library
- Sensory night at a local YMCA
- Swimming event
- Parent training
- Gymnastic event
- Gym event
- Music event
- Easter Egg hunt
I have met amazing families and community leaders, all of which have helped me plan community events. The first thing I do when thinking about a community event, is reach out to different families to see if this is something they would be interested in attending. The event is only going to be successful if the families attending feel comfortable and safe in the environment.
After I have gathered enough interested families, I reach out to community organizations. When reaching out, I introduce myself, tell them about my background and my goal for contacting them. At the end of the email, I typically ask to set up a meeting in person so I can explain how their space could be beneficial for individuals with special needs.
At the meeting, I talk with the community organization about all the pieces that are necessary for the event to be successful. This includes; volunteers, training volunteers, safety concerns, bathroom locations, safety getting to the building, and the adaptations that need to be made to make the event successful. A subject that is always tricky to bring up is the cost to host an event. If the venue expresses that they would need to charge families to host the event, I typically ask them to do a group price for families or allow me to find sponsors for the event.
During the day of the event, I work with the community organization to make sure everything run smoothly. This includes talking with the volunteers to make them aware of behaviors, positive and inappropriate, they could see, explain how to use first person language and model how to interact with individuals using modeling and teaching. The area that requires volunteers the entire time is all the doors. This makes parents feel comfortable in case their child is an elopement risk.
One of my first big events was at a local gym. We used 6 basketball courts and 1 turf field to set up a family fun day. The event required 25 volunteers; they ran the activities on the court, stood at doors to prevent elopement, helped with check in and was a buddy to individuals that needed support on the courts. The local gym was amazing in making changes to the environment; including, blocking stairs that went to a balcony, shutting off vending machines, disabling the automatic towel dispensers and labeling the environment so a schedule could be used. The event was extremely successful, and we now do the event 4 times a year, each time the amount of participants has grown!
Community events are for the individuals with special needs, but more importantly, it is for the parents and siblings. During this time parents get to meet, talk about their experiences and struggles, and build friendships with other families. If you are a therapist, community leader or teacher, I recommend thinking about planning community events.