Our daughter Sophia has been attending the HALO Sunday Swim & Sing one-to-one respite program since early 2011. We came to learn of the respite program through Sophia's Early Intervention Nurse, Michelle, with whom we've stayed in contact.
The program offers my husband and I a unique opportunity to have three precious hours to ourselves—to relax, catch up on work, have lunch together—knowing that Sophia is happy and safe in a beautiful space with engaging staff and volunteers. The Sunday Swim & Sing program is important to Sophia. Occasionally, she is invited to an event on a day that the program is scheduled. Given a choice, Sophia always chooses to attend the Sunday Swim & Sing Program, even if the alternative is another enjoyable activity.
Sophia has bonded very well with the Swim & Sing musical therapist. We often receive videos and selfies of them together. There was once a breakthrough moment when Sophia approached the music therapist to strum her guitar. When I informed Sophia's school, Perkins, of the breakthrough, her teacher enrolled her in an autoharp class. Sophia is typically more of an observer than a participant, so anytime she participates in or initiates an activity is appreciated by us. Participation has long been on her IEP (Individualized Education Plan) at school. Sophia continues to challenge herself with the autoharp, though she really cannot play a song, the activity works into some of her Occupational Therapy goals as she is reaching and strumming. Even though there is no IEP at Swim & Sing, the staff still encourage Sophia to reach her goals in a social and recreational environment.
The Swim & Sing program staff are also flexible and respectful of Sophia's needs. Sophia chooses not to participate in the swim section, so someone entertains and engages her in social skills while the other participants are swimming. Sophia went gluten-free last year so we send in a snack for her, and the staff have been respectful of that as well.
Sophia always looks forward to attending Sunday Swim & Sing, and she is always beaming when we pick her up. While she is mostly non-verbal, she can express happiness and joy.