When creating your program, make sure every planned activity and unstructured play option is also suitable for the children with complex disabilities who also use your service. The individual support plan for a child with a complex disability will help your program plan.
Do not provide separate activities for children with complex disabilities, as this is not inclusive.
Adjust the parts of your program or environment that don't meet the needs of all children, and support individual children to take part.
If adolescents with complex disabilities attend your service, adjust your program so it also reflects the abilities, interests and maturity of their age group.
Planning excursions can be more complex. Carefully plan those to make sure all children can take part. You will need to include how to handle the extra risks associated with the outing.
The importance of ‘child agency’
Child agency is defined as children being able to make choices and decisions that influence their world and experiences.
Children with complex disabilities have the same right as other children to influence what they do at OSHC. Make sure that children with complex disabilities 'have a say' in their experience at your service.
Some children may communicate without speech or express themselves in ways that are different to others. It's important they have input in the way that best suits them.
Ways you can help a child have input
- look for opportunities for the child to express their ideas and help make decisions
- give the child the chance to show their capabilities and maturity by being responsible for a task
- ask the child what their interests are and think of ways they could pursue those interests
- ask the child to set goals and work towards them
- consider the level of independence that is appropriate for the child's age and ability.
The 'My Time, Our Place' Framework (PDF, 542KB) for School Aged Care in Australia states that all children have the right to be included in OSHC.
The Australian Children's Education & Care Quality Authority states that supporting children's agency (PDF, 1.2MB) is about recognising that children have a right to make choices and decisions and are capable.
It's important that children feel their preferences are heard, and their decisions are accepted and respected.
Staff should not try to encourage children to alter decisions once they are made, even if they believe another choice may be more suitable to the child's interests or abilities.
The only time it may be appropriate to overrule a child's decision or preference is if it creates a safety risk or potential harm.
When children have choices, they:
- feel more confident and develop their independence
- can build their sense of identity and explore individual interests
- start to take on responsibility and become more conscious of the impact of their actions
- are more likely to take part in the program and enjoy activities, especially if they have been involved in the planning process and can see their ideas incorporated.
Children with complex disabilities may gravitate towards activities they already know and that feel familiar. To encourage children to try new things, brainstorm activities with the child, and test ideas to see what the child is open to or excited about trying.