Two summers ago, I worked at an inclusive camp as a one-on-one aide for a little boy with autism. At the beginning of the summer, all one-on-one counselors were trained in how to best support kids with special needs and the protocols for administering medications, writing incident reports, and more. As dry as some of this material was, I took away one important rule: “Document everything.” At first, I internalized this as a rule to make sure that the camp doesn’t get in trouble for not reporting incidents to parents. I have since learned to appreciate the value of reporting to families.
One day, my camper, James (name has been changed for confidentiality) was scratching a mosquito bite, and it started bleeding uncontrollably. Although all it took was a little Neosporin and a bandaid, I wrote up an incident report and made sure to tell his mom when she came to pick him up. She shook her head and said, “Oh well. It’s just a bug bite. No big deal!”
To be honest, I felt a little silly for even sharing such a minor injury with her. But then I started to think about what might have happened if I didn’t tell her, or if I didn’t report it. I pictured James going home after camp and his mom noticing a bandaid on his ankle with a cut under it. I imagined her wondering what could have happened to her son. She probably would have imagined the worst possible scenarios. And she may have come back the next day, upset and asking what had happened to her son. Since it was just a mosquito bite, I may not have even remembered by the next day. I may not have been able to give her answers to what happened to James.
Why It’s Important to Report to Families
For many parents of children with disabilities, sending their kids to camp can be scary. They want to protect their children. Independence is the ultimate goal, but since it seems so far away, it is too abstract for some parents. It can be very difficult for parents to take the steps necessary to reach independence. The more that they can trust the staff they work with, the more they will allow their children to try new things, to take risks, and to grow as independent people. The best way to build trust with parents is to keep them well-informed of what is happening at camp.
Just remember: document everything. Not for your sake, and not for your boss’s sake, but for the sake of the children and families you work with. More documentation leads to higher levels of trust. The more trust you have with kids and their families, the more independence you can build.
–Written by Elise Hopkins, KIT Blog Editor
Kids Included Together (KIT) is a non-profit located in San Diego, CA and Washington, DC. We help make the world a more inclusive place by providing live and online training to people who work with kids. We teach strategies, accommodations and best practices to include kids with and without disabilities in before & after school programs. Inclusive environments create stronger communities. Learn more about our work at www.KITonline.org.