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Summer-Time Care for Children with Disabilities

By Kim Casey

Staff and Zach's Place Program Child

Lazy summer days can sound much better to parents in February than April when school days are soon to be over and summer activities need to be planned.  For many parents of children with disabilities, options for suitable day and respite care are far more limited - creating additional challenges.

The Pikes Peak Region fortunately has the Special Kids Special Families’ Zach’s Place Program, one of only two licensed day-care facilities in the entire state with the focus and training to provide both respite and day care for children with physical, intellectual and emotional disabilities.  Newly moved to the Westside of the Springs, Zach’s Place Program makes summer easy, safe, and fun for everyone.

Different from the average day care or summer camp, Zach’s Place staff are uniquely trained to support and care for children with a wide range of challenges or dual diagnosis (multiple co-existing disabilities). The staff to child ratio is also dramatically different than in more typical care situations, ranging from 1:1 to 1:3 depending on the specific needs of the children in care at any given time.

While safety is the primary concern, the staff keep the kids very busy over the summer with numerous activities, themed weeks and expeditions out into the community.  Each week has a different theme during the summer, such as:

  • Fun Places to visit in Colorado;
  • Plants and animals in Colorado;
  • Sports Week;
  • Space Week; and
  • Art Week.   

As part of the time at Zach’s Place, children work with staff on their own accomplishments whether that may be improving social interactions, facilitating a higher level of self-care or working on educational goals, each specific to the individual.  However, on a broader scope the program does run its own summer reading program with last year’s theme as “Race to the Peak.”    

For those kids able to explore in the community, the program plans visits to many fun places, for example:  the North Pole, Pueblo Children’s Museum, Garden of the Gods, Red Rock Canyon, Starsmore Discovery Center, and Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. 

In addition, the children go swimming every Monday and Thursday, bowling every Tuesday and play WII fitness every Friday.  On days not in the community kids experience “Water Day,” “Messy Day,” and “Game Day.”

This should sound like a typical summer camp experience that all children can enjoy. Yet children with disabilities need additional support, accommodations, and assistance to participate. This is not usually available in an average day care setting and can cause parents of these kids to be unable to offer their children the same summer experiences.

Respite time is available to be scheduled seven days a week and up to 24-hours. However, Zach’s Place Program days do fill quickly and parents are encouraged to contact the office staff regarding scheduling at (719) 329-1717; tmicklebost@sksfcolorado.org or for more information www.SKSFcolorado.org.  Zach’s Place Program is located at 4795 Granby Circle near Garden of the Gods and Centennial in Colorado Springs.

Special Kids Special Families (SKSF) is a non-profit umbrella organization with several unique programs designed to support people with disabilities of all ages from early childhood through adult as well as their families and caregivers. SKSF offers three main programs including: The Child and Family Services Program that encompasses Zach’s Place; Adult Services Program and the SKSF Child Placement Agency.