Update On H.A.L.O.’s Family Circle Programs

Ivan and Esoos, father and son, enjoy family swim time at the Newton YMCA.
H.A.L.O.’s Family Circle is a resource for Massachusetts families who care for medically complex children at home. Services include the Family Circle newsletter and Social Recreational Programming.

The Sunday Swim & Sing program, managed by Greater Boston Jewish Family & Children’s Service (JF&CS), has been its most enduring activity. Since 2006 Swim & Sing has provided structured social and therapeutic activities to participants who are generally isolated from their peers and their community.

For three hours on 30 Sundays during the year, professional staffers work directly with 12 individuals (ages 5-34) in music therapy, movement, and swimming sessions in Newton, MA, and 9 individuals in Stoughton, MA for 20 Sundays. One-to-one staffing builds relationships that grow from week to week; it also ensures that each participant's unique needs and abilities are addressed.

In a recent survey of participants’ families, a father explained the program’s value for his son: “He can't do things typically developing children do, so he is challenged socially and doesn't have a circle of friends. It's nice to see him engaged with the music, doing what makes him happy.”

There are 60+ families on the waiting list for Swim & Sing, so for the past three years waitlisted families have been offered a chance to participate in the pool and music activities with their child on a limited schedule. Caitlin Bohara, JF&CS community programs manager, explained that 10 three-hour sessions are available in the current activities cycle at Newton YMCA. She noted that parents praise the opportunity for their children to socialize.

“There aren’t always a lot of accessible activities we can do together as a family,” said Amber, whose daughter is on the waiting list. “It’s nice to meet other families with kids with similar issues.”

Another mother, Oahn, said: “Basically we have a blast, my daughter enjoys the music and interacting with the other kids.”

Caitlin, the program manager, added that siblings and parents appreciate the structure of the program. “It’s just a safe, fun environment with no tracking or goals.”