The Special Buddies Program (SBP) is a one-of-a-kind program for individuals with moderate to severe special needs. The SBP will be held on-site at the Woodlands Waterway Marriott. Director, Leslie Stevens, and her volunteer staff will conduct the Special Buddies Program for THSC for the sixth year running in 2013. Special Buddies staff and volunteers are equipped with the heart and the training to masterfully serve these dynamic individuals and their families. The SBP is available on a case-by-case basis and while space lasts. The SBP reserves the right to recommend other options, possibly including the Children’s Program, if an individual does not fall within the parameters of the SBP.
Special Buddies Program – ALMOST FULL
Online registration for the Special Buddies Program is no longer available. Please contact program director Leslie Stevens at firstname.lastname@example.org for registration information. Space is available on a case by case basis only.
The Special Buddies Program will offer Bible-based curriculum with music, crafts, and videos; low staff-to-student ratios; and self-contained, modified mainstream, and reverse-inclusion models. There are a limited number of spaces available for medically fragile children, with nurses on staff.
Special Buddies Program FAQs
Q: Is this just some kind of babysitting?
A: No. We will be providing a regular program, including Bible lessons, music, arts and crafts, and fellowship.
Q: What formats will be provided? Will all of the children be in one big room, regardless of age and ability?
A: The answer depends to some degree on the individual needs of the children who register. In its original form, the plan is as follows:
Inclusion Model – Children ages 4 to 12 who are able to participate in small group activities with Children’s Program but cannot handle the large group setting will go to Children’s Program small groups and come to a SBP room for supplemental programming when the small group goes to large-group sessions.
Self-Contained/Reverse Inclusion Model – Children with special needs who are best served apart from the Children’s Program will be in one of the SBP rooms for the entire Convention. “Reverse inclusion” means that typically developing peers will come to the SBP room for interaction with the SBP children within the structure of the SBP schedule of activities. Self-contained children will only leave the room, supervised, for restroom breaks or at lunch when released to a parent. Teens from the Teen Staff Program may be a part of the volunteer staff, but trained adults, as well as an on-call nurse, will always be available for supervision.
Medically Fragile – Children who are medically fragile will be served in a self-contained room designated for their care. The room will have a volunteer staff that will include at least one nurse at all times. Teens from the Teen Staff Program may be in the room at times to serve as volunteers, but other children will not be in the room, in order to avoid the possibility of inadvertent spontaneous behavior that could put the medically fragile children at risk for injury. The volunteer staff will not administer any medications or tube feedings to children in this room. Parents will be asked to return to the room to take care of those needs. The nurses will be available for suctioning and for monitoring medical needs such as seizure activity. Refrigeration will be available for medications and feeding products, if necessary. Parents will be able to remain in the room during the lunch hour in order to feed their child.
Q: My child requires electrical outlets for his/her monitoring devices. Will those be available?
Q: How will the SBP staff know if there is a need in another room for extra help?
A: Leslie Stevens will be the director of the SBP program. In each room, one volunteer will be designated as the room leader, and another will be the teacher for the lessons. The room leader’s role is to oversee the general welfare of the children. Each room will have a walkie-talkie, as will Leslie. Room leaders can contact Leslie for assistance.
Q: How will I know if you need me?
A: Parents will be required to give the SBP leaders a cell phone number for a phone that will be on for the duration of the Convention. Please set your phone to vibrate if you attend a Workshop. Should the SBP staff need you, they will call your cell phone.
Q: What will lunch time look like?
A: We need to be sensitive to the needs of our volunteer staff. Please pick up your child promptly at the time designated in the Convention Program for pick-up of children. If you prefer to bring a lunch instead of going somewhere, limited refrigeration is available in one of the rooms. You may store your lunch there and then eat with your child in the SBP rooms. However, staff will not be available during lunch. Please also consider that your child will be in that room all day and might benefit from a short walk to another area of the building or even outside.
Q: What materials will be used for the lessons and activities?
A: The SBP will be using Lifeway’s Outrigger Island’s Special Friends curriculum, which is their VBS program for special kids.
Q: My child is over the age of 12, which is the cut-off age for the Children’s Program. Can he/she participate in the Inclusion Model and go to Children’s Program small groups?
A: Participants over the age of 12 will be fully self-contained. SBP will be using both reverse inclusion and Teen Staff volunteers. That way, teens in the SBP will have interaction with typical peers during the course of the Convention. Children over the age of 12 will not be able to participate in the Children’s program.
Q: What kind of training will the staff have?
A: Although most of the volunteers will have previous experience with special needs children, on Thursday afternoon the SBP staff will assemble for training aimed specifically at being prepared for the Convention and the children who will be in the Program. This training will be led by Leslie Stevens. Specific needs may be addressed by other knowledgeable individuals, such as training by a nurse for those who will work with medically fragile children. Our knowing in advance the detailed information that the registration form requests will help the trainers prepare the staff for meeting the needs of your child. This is one reason why Preregistration is mandatory.
Q: Can we meet the people who will work with our child in advance?
A: Yes! THSC will host an open house Thursday from 5:30 to 7 p.m. in the area of the hotel where the SBP will meet. You are encouraged to come to this event to meet the staff, ask questions, and bring supplies that your child may need, as well as special items that might help your child transition easier the next morning. We encourage you to consider attending this event. Bringing supplies in advance will help your morning go smoother. Bringing familiar items in advance will help your child feel secure the next day. And, of course, meeting the staff is important, for both you and your child, so that your child is not left with a stranger in the morning, and so you can give specific instructions to the individual who is assigned to your child. Another advantage to coming Thursday night is that THSC will have the registration lines open outside the main conference area so that you can pick up your materials there (lanyard, program, bag, etc.). Doing so on Thursday will make your Friday transition smoother—you can drop off your child and head straight for the Exhibit Hall or Workshop of your choice without having to stand in line!
Q: What will the staff-to-child ratio be?
A: In a perfect world, if we have as many volunteers as we believe we will have, the ratio should be one-to-one. Of course, medically fragile children will have priority for that ratio, as will Runners! The nurses will not be part of the one-to-one ratio. They will be available for all of the SBP children in both rooms. Children who are included in the Children’s Program small groups may have a higher ratio, again, depending on our numbers. Adults who are designated as room leaders and teachers will not be assigned to individual children, so there may actually be better than a one-to-one ratio.
Q: Can I leave my child in the SBP so I can attend the evening events?
A: We regret that we cannot offer evening care for the children in the SBP. We need to be sensitive to the volunteers’ schedules and not overextend their energies.