When I think back on extracurricular activities from when I was growing up, I recall we had them, but I only had ONE! The one that I had was softball and I enjoyed it but I remember sometimes feeling overwhelmed. I felt too busy as the season began because school was still in session and I had homework as well as practice to attend. Homework in middle school and high school was NO joke! I guess that’s why I question participating in extracurricular activities for my child with special needs. Should I or should I not?
My youngest (the more “typical” of my two children) rides motocross but it doesn’t interfere with his school work. If he doesn’t have much homework, weather permits, and we have a place to ride, then he can get some needed seat time in. If not, he will just practice on the weekend at the track three hours away. He’s in first grade so the homework isn’t that intense just yet, but I wonder how many parents do it with kids that do get tons of homework. I remember when I was teaching in the classroom I had children who were involved in so many extracurricular activities that they barely did any homework. In my opinion, it showed the child that school was secondary. A parent once told me, “I want him involved in everything.” In this case in particular, his work was lacking and he wasn’t excelling in his academics.
With my oldest son (my child with special needs) I often wonder if I am doing the right thing by keeping him out of extracurricular activities. Honestly though, by the time homework is completed, dinner is served and showers are taken, it’s close to 8pm. Isn’t a rested mind better than an active social life at this age? I know many would beg to differ especially with children like ours who need that socialization but I also find that the school system doesn’t take into consideration these children when they create really intense and rich curriculum that doesn’t allow for any wiggle room when students arrive home. Children with special needs thrive off of some time to themselves and being able to have fun. You don’t want them to dislike school and think that it’s keeping them from things they enjoy doing. I certainly don’t want my child to grow up resenting school… Would he benefit from extracurricular activities?
Do I want my son to have a social life? Of course! With the demands of school and the Common Core State Standards there isn’t much flexibility in our day. I see parents complaining now that their children have so much homework from the moment they walk in until the time they lay their heads on their pillows. I truly believe children with special needs aren’t taken into consideration when teachers give homework or plan these long-term projects. Children have been in school the entire day often sitting for hours at a time. What adult do you know that can sit this still for this long? I have seen many adults have as much impatience as a child would in classroom settings. It becomes difficult! You’re in school all day and then you come home and have more work to do? Where’s the time for some play? Or even downtime in any way they choose? In this case, I’m not sure if extracurricular activities would be so helpful.
As a mommy and teacher, I have witnessed children suffer from “burnout”. The start down a path of disliking school because there’s way too much scheduling pressure with their extracurricular activities and homework. Parents place them in these things and it’s often way too much! When enrolling students, especially those with special needs, in these extracurricular activities, we really have to know our child and his or her capabilities. This is how I deal with my children. I go by what I think they can handle. They know that school is first, they socialize in school, they socialize with their family and if there is extra time they can have those extracurricular activities. At this time they do not participate in any during the week and they are doing just fine. As parents, look closely and see if extracurricular activities will truly benefit your child while allowing for healthy continuation of their education as well as their future. I am proof that they had no impact on the type of human being I am today! I assure you, softball didn’t “make or break” anything about me.
Sound off: Do you believe children need extracurricular activities …what about those children with special needs? Can it work into their schedule?