Spring has arrived and the end of the school year is within sight. Most kids are counting down the days while most working parents are breaking a sweat trying to cobble together two-plus months of camps, vacations, occasional day-trips, and childcare, hoping their plans on paper work in practice. Add a child, teen, or young adult with special needs and the challenges intensify considerably.
If you’re an employer or a manager, here are three ways you can offer support:
1. Children with special education needs have the same needs in July as they do in November. Extended school year services, if they’ve been secured, are typically less than a full-day and almost never run from the last day of school in June to the first day of school in late August/early September.
SOLUTION: Provide flexible work hours if not already offered and allow for vacation and personal time to be used in hours or partial days vs. full days. And be flexible with last-minute and crisis needs that arise. Companies that are aware and responsive to these needs are those that retain working parents.
2. Children with autism or other special needs who are attending camp programs may need an aide or frequent parent availability, plus private therapies are often added to the mix. This means appointments, handling transportation, securing evaluations...to name a few.
SOLUTION: Allow parents access to a specially-designated office or private space for them to make telephone calls, Skype with camp personnel or support staff, schedule appointments, and confer with doctors, clinicians, and others as needed. It can reduce time away from the office and will provide employees with the privacy they need. Plus, it demonstrates that the company understands the stressors involved with exceptional caregiving responsibilities, not only on a daily basis but also during the challenging summer months as well.
3. Children with autism spectrum disorders, ADHD, or similar needs require structure and predictability, and the summer months are often when this is difficult to achieve and maintain. Parents prepare as best as possible, yet situations often develop that require them to adapt and adjust quickly. A particular camp may not work. A childcare provider may leave. A therapist may request additional evaluations. These situations mean that employees need time and resources to help.
SOLUTION: Communicate to all employees that their EAP is available to assist with issues that relate to summer needs, whether locating a last-minute child care provider or addressing stress-related issues. Providing employees with access to resources to help them manage their children’s needs as well as their own work/life issues is key to employee retention. And if employee assistance or work/life programs or services are not yet available, now is the time to start.
One of the things we consistently hear from working parents is that they need more support and assistance, whether managing their children's needs or understanding how to navigate through school. And these needs are year-round, often intensifying over the summer months which is the time to evaluate the past school year and plan for September.
Employers play a pivotal role in creating family-friendly workplaces where supports throughout the parenting continuum are available to help working parents remain productive employees.
-Debra Isaacs Schafer