Family Activities

In addition to the Friday Night Gathering, the Opening Ceremony, and the Closing Ceremony, there are family activities throughout the Family Enrichment Weekend that are designed to reinforce family cohesiveness. Family Activities take place following lunch, dinner, and breakfast on Saturday and Sunday.  There are also family activities available during afternoon family time on Saturday.   In addition, throughout the day there are table activities for families while they are waiting for the group to gather.  Companions are with the families during all the family activities to assist with any accommodations that need to be made for the children. The family activities are designed to involve the entire family.  The purpose is to have each family successfully work together to promote family cohesiveness.  Most of the families that attend have a child who has not been successfully included in family activities and many have given up trying to do things as a family unit.  One parent will stay home and care for the child with autism while the other parent, or a friend, accompanies the nondisabled siblings to soccer games, swimming, or school events.  If the activity is designed for a child with autism, the nondisabled siblings may not be included so one parent will attend that activity (for example, therapeutic horseback riding) and leave the siblings at home.   The sense of family is lost as families find themselves functioning in parts rather than a whole unit. In order to design activities that can be done by the entire family, there are several criteria that must be met.  Each activity at the Family Enrichment Weekend must be easily completed with little or no instruction, the activity must include all family members, the activity must allow involvement at many levels, it must be a sensory rich activity, it must inherently include a high tolerance for a wide range of behaviors, it must be noncompetitive, and it must be fun for children and adults alike.   There is no “point” to the activity itself.   The activity is simply the means by which a family has the opportunity to play together. An example of a family activity is the “Rappin’ Brides” where each family is given a roll of toilet paper and a roll of masking tape.  The family uses the toilet paper and masking tape to dress Mom (or Dad) as a bride.  Once the outfit is complete all the dressed parents come forward and perform a “Rap” with the help of the young college men.   Another activity uses tinfoil to turn one parent into a robot and then all the robots perform.   All children can participate even if they simply play with the materials.  Examples of family activities can be accessed online using the link provided or can be found in Appendix E in the hard copy of the manual. Modeling parenting skills for children with challenging behaviors. During the family activities the Family Fun Guys create an atmosphere of acceptance that is unique at the Family Enrichment Weekend.  While some of the Family Fun Guys are on stage pointing out the great work that is being done by each family, others are moving through the room encouraging families and companions and modeling how to involve all family members in each activity.   All the Family Fun Guys are trained to be entertaining and playful while they demonstrate to the parents how to redirect inappropriate behaviors with laughter and play.  This strategy, designed to teach parenting skills that prevent outbursts and meltdowns, is accomplished in an atmosphere that is always accepting and nonjudgmental.    Each activity ends with group singing where many children end up on the stage.

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