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VAII Clubhouse Refocuses on Special-Needs Youth

Four youth from the VAII Clubhouse visit the Hopi Veterans Memorial Center where the Special Needs Activities Day was held.

The VAII Clubhouse recently changed its after-school program to focus only on children with special needs and Individual Education Plans (IEPs).

“We have decided to take in youth with special needs here at the VAII Clubhouse,” said Karina Watson, youth development specialist of the VAII Clubhouse. “As of August, our supervisor wanted us to change over the program to where we only serve kids with IEPs.”

The clubhouse staff has been busy learning more about how to work with special-needs kids. They attended a conference on technology to help youth with special needs, and some of the new youth members and clubhouse staff recently visited the Hopi Reservation to attend the 21st annual Special Needs Activities Day, held at the Hopi Veterans Memorial Center in Kykotsmovi village. They participated in an Honor Walk with a drum group, visited the many different information booths, and joined in arts and crafts, games and activities that were geared toward the youth.

“The Honor Walk was for the youth with special needs to let them know that they are included,” said Felicia Ramos, VAII Clubhouse youth development specialist.

“Service providers such as [representatives of] the Native American Disability Law [Center] were there and gave us some insight that could help us at the Clubhouse,” said Watson. “It was an awareness day for special needs. There were also support groups for adults and life-skills classes.”

The youth from Salt River enjoyed seeing the other tribal youth from the northern part of Arizona.

The VAII Clubhouse name will remain the same, but there are new requirements for youth to become members. The previous members are now referred to the Boys and Girls Club, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community Youth Services programs and Salt River Recreation for after-school activities.

Rudy Buchanan, a former staff member with the VAII Clubhouse, had staff members already participating in conferences and workshops for youth with special needs and/or disabilities, so the clubhouse staff were prepared to take on the change.

Youth from the Community participate in the different activities featured at the event, such as arts and crafts projects.
“It’s not a big adjustment, but it is an adjustment from working with all types of kids to focusing on only the special-needs kids,” said Ramos.

Right now the VAII Clubhouse has 10 students participating, and the staff has permission slips from their parents to visit each child’s school to see how they are doing and what they are learning.

“We are trying to be more proactive in the schools and then come back here and apply some of the [lessons] they learn [in school] here at the clubhouse,” said Watson.

“We understand more now that we have interaction with their school schedules and so on. We still do the things that we did before, like activities with Youth Services and Recreation, arts and crafts, and culture,” said Watson. “So it’s not like they are excluded, and that isn’t what we are trying to do; we just want to give [special-needs kids] more support, and especially for the parents to help them as well.”

Many of the youth who are older will be graduating out of the program at VAII because they have a special needs coordinator in their junior high and high school Native American Program. Here in the Community they also have a program as well.