We’re getting excited to welcome families to the 5th GFPD Family & Scientific Conference in just over two months! To help get families ready for the conference, I asked lead childcare volunteers Abby Simpson and Catherine Ozio to tell our families a little bit about what they can expect for their kids if they choose to use the free childcare room. Abby has been heading up childcare since our very first conference, and Catherine began volunteering in the childcare room in 2012 at our Orlando conference. Both Abby and Catherine have become fixtures for our kids each year and we’re so grateful to have them back again this year.
We are so excited to see so many families already registered, and we know that many others are considering attending. For those who will be attending our conference for the first time, can you tell them a little bit about what their child(ren) will experience in the childcare room?
Catherine: For our new families what they can expect from our childcare room(s) is a safe, friendly, environment with lots of activities and sensory toys for their kids to play with, so parents can experience the seminars that the conference has to offer without being distracted or worried about their child's needs!
Abby: Our goal is to have a variety of toys and activities for the children to use safely for the duration of the conference. In the past, these activities have ranged from a bounce house and ball pit, to movies and sensory toys. Since the ages, interests and needs of the children vary significantly in the childcare room, we try to have things for everyone to enjoy. A space is also usually set aside for children who need some quiet time or fall asleep.
Given our kids’ complex needs, some parents may worry about leaving their children in the childcare room. Abby, you probably remember how nervous I was our first year in Orlando! What would you say to those parents?
Abby: Care for and safety of your children is our utmost priority in the childcare room. We love to partner with families to learn about your children and what activities your children may enjoy (or not enjoy), as well as guidelines for the care of your children. Our childcare volunteers love engaging with the children and we look forward to meeting new families this year! We also ask all families to fill out a Childcare Intake Form. This helps us learn about your children and assists us in the planning process.
For those families returning to us this year, what will be the same or different about this year's conference? Anything new planned for the kids in the childcare room?
Catherine: This year's conference will be the same fun environment in our room, but we will be splitting our kids up between two rooms. We will have the same toys and clean setting, but we will have some new policies and attendance procedures to keep the kids organized and safe!
Abby: Accessibility for one room is a little different than the other, so we will consider that as well as child needs and age/size when planning for the conference. Volunteers will be staffed appropriately given the number of children and needs in each room. Also, since the childcare numbers continue to grow, we will be implementing a new system to document when children are in the childcare room and we will have a checkout system for children when they leave the room. Finally, we ask that all families label any items they plan to bring to the childcare room.
Abby and Catherine, you've both been volunteering with us in the childcare room through several conferences. Who else will be working with you in the childcare room this year? What kinds of experience will those volunteers have with children with special medical, communication, and mobility needs?
Abby: This year, we have three volunteers returning. In addition to Catherine and myself, my friend Meghan Smith helped for a day in Omaha in 2015. She’s a school psychologist with Lincoln Public Schools and the President of the Nebraska School Psychology Association. Also joining us is Heather Foster, a Speech-Language Pathologist from Lincoln, NE and colleague and good friend of mine for 7 years. Finally, we have four students from the communication disorders undergraduate program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, representing the Nebraska Student Speech-Language-Hearing Association. These students are SO EXCITED for the conference. They can’t wait to learn more! All of the Nebraska volunteers will be trained by me prior to their arrival in July.
Catherine: Abby will be training the volunteers in the months and weeks before [the conference], and the two of us will be doing a walk through with them before the conference starts so they are prepared and know what to expect.