FAMILIES and educators fear 2021 might be the final year for an out of school hours program specifically designed for the needs of children at Bendigo Special Developmental School.
Part of a statewide pilot, the care program has been specifically designed to meet the needs of students, but its funding will end at the close of 2021.
Activities are tailored to the individual abilities of the children who attend during holidays and after school. They can range between everything from sensory play, to an animal farm.
Both the school and program provider are calling for the program to receive ongoing funding, saying its value is "beyond measure" for children and families.
Project manager Belinda Arscott said the OSCH program gave children the chance to use the skills they learnt in the classroom while spending time with their friends, which they might not be able to do otherwise. She said it was normally fully booked, with a long waiting list.
"This gives them the opportunity to be supported, but be able to do the things that all kids do, and love to do," she said.
Parent Britta Dawson said the program had been amazing for her son Tasman, while it also allowed her to work and take her younger daughter to activities such as dancing lessons which her son would not cope with.
Ms Dawson said having a program at Tasman's school meant he felt safe and secure in an environment he was familiar with, where he knew the all the staff.
She said seeing the children he already knew helped Tasman to build friendships.
Ms Dawson said she appreciated the program's inclusive approach, which gave her son the support he needed to enjoy activities.
"They put in that extra effort to have activities and event happen that the rest of us take for granted being able to access," she said.
"It's really an enriching environment for them. They're wanting to grow and develop these kids."
Program provider Interchange chief operations officer Eli Geary said the OSCH required complex resources, as well as high staffing ratios and significant training.
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