After school programs developed for unique kids

Sixty children with neuro-developmental disorders have the chance to participate in new after school programs provided by Nanaimo Unique Kids Organization.

Sixty children with neuro-developmental disorders have the chance to participate in new after-school programs provided by Nanaimo Unique Kids Organization.

Starting in September, the non-profit group, which already runs a day program for 20 students, will offer 12 different after school programs, including a support group for siblings of a child with developmental disabilities.

“It’s just another way we can support these families,” said manager Teresa Nielsen. “We have room to host 20 students [in our day program] and we have a huge wait list. We anticipate [the outreach programs are] going to fill fast.”

The programs will be run out of NUKO’s farmhouse off Biggs Road, where the group moved last fall.

The organization has provided educational programs for children with neuro-developmental disorders since 2005, when several families got together to discuss what could be done to better meet the needs of their children, who were not thriving in a traditional classroom environment.

Included in the new after-school programs offered this fall are homework clubs, a Friday night youth group, clubs for boys and girls of different ages, art, fitness and sports programs, and a cooking class.

The programs are included in Nanaimo Parks, Recreation and Culture’s fall activity guide.

Nielsen said NUKO staff and board members decided to expand services as a way to reach more families.

There are about 15 students on a wait list for the day program.

The programs enable children to interact with others facing similar challenges and what Nielsen hears from many families is that their children struggle to feel accepted in the public school system.

“What we hear from a lot of parents when their children come to NUKO is that they finally have a sense of belonging,” said Nielsen. “It’s just that feeling of acceptance. It’s so huge with the kids.”

As for the sibling support group, she said sometimes children with brothers or sisters with developmental challenges need to talk about what it’s like growing up with a special needs sibling and interact with others in the same situation.

For more information about NUKO’s new programs, please go to www.nuko.ca or call 250-585-6856.