How do you prepare for the summer with a child who has special needs?? read on…..

26 Jun

School is out for summer this coming week and vacation is about to begin..  Are you ready??

As I go through my work week this past one, I have found families becoming overwhelmed.  School recitals, end of year parties and scrambling to make sure that summer clothes are together, therapy sessions are adjusted and if there is an older child in the home their camp schedule is being put in place.  Some children are going into respite care while foster parents are taking a break and going out-of-town. Remarkable descriptive terms that I have heard this past week to show feelings of caregivers and parents have been “tired”, “stressed” or “overwhelmed”.  Many have appeared frazzled.This is nobody’s fault – please remember that readers.  These are just seasonal descriptors that come up at major times of change which include the transition from a routine daily schedule to that of an unstructured summer…possibly.  Many people are short on cash and have asked me what is inexpensive in the area that they can do with their child or children.  YOU have been the impetus for this week’s post.

Please take a deep breath and relax, because children pick up on this and parental/caregiver anxiety.  The more you have organized, the easier it will be for everyone so…

Before we get to some suggestions, bear in mind that children with special needs may face particular challenges  There are three key words STRUCTURE.  ROUTINE.  PREDICTABILITY which are necessary for you to keep in mind, as you plan activities with your child over the summer

Remember language development.  A toddler is not going to demonstrate an understanding of the concept of time.  Fortunately you do so I suggest that to help yourself. You will benefit from:

Structure:  Post a Calendar for yourself so that you as a parent know what is on the schedule.  A good spot may be the kitchen refrigerator door. If you have more than one child you may want to color code i.e. Suzy’s activities are in green and Joey’s are in red. Review the calendar often so that you know what to expect.

Routine and Predictability:  We as adults function best when we have these two key elements built into our day at work and parents have a job 24/7.  Your children will also benefit from this and in general, this will help them behaviorally.  Some children, especially those on the autism spectrum, have difficulty when rouutine changes so to help you parent them:

If your child receives therapy-maintain a regular therapy schedule, as much as you can with your provider. If you expect a few days away on vacation and missing a session, ask for a few activities that you can do during your break to help your child.

Familiar faces will be a help.  If your child has favorites in his or her class, try to hook up with them and their families.  Support and companionship from a parent who understands your child is enormously helpful. If your child is in a preschool program, see if you have access to a class roster  so you can contact other families.

Resources in your area: local newspapers may have a list of children’s activities.  Sometimes libraries have these publications available. Story time at a local bookstore or the library.  Museums.  Popcorn and DVD gathering with friends in an air-conditioned area.  If you have an outdoor area…blow up an inexpensive pool that are sold packaged in local drug stores and can be filled in with a garden hose.  Bring some bath toys, a bucket, step in and cool off.  Parks and Recreation Programming. I just got one booklet from New York State Parks Nature Programs. Check programming with titles such as “Tiny Tots”, “Junior Explorers” or “Fun for Kids”.  Do your tax dollars support a community pool or sports area?  That venue may offer age appropriate activities for your child. Check!  I have noticed that some housing developments have programming on site and that families do not have to go far.  If you have any other ideas for programs in your area could you please comment on this post so others can benefit.  Thank you!

Again – back to language activities.  If you need  to pack a bag before you go out, see if yor child can help you. A quiet time activity for the night before – your two and a half year old can probably help you by putting specific things together.  Your child can “bring me your teddy bear.”  ” “Put it in the bag”.  Let’s count out four diapers to take with us. Then have them  “Bring them to the table”.

**From a language standpoint the above activity teaches your child to follow simple directiions.  You are teaching your child to identify their toy.  You are teaching your child where things are in space by telling them to put teddy bear IN the bag.  If you dare, ask them a simple question such as “what are we doing?” and hopefully you will hear  i.e. “teddy in”. Children will understand before they speak.  Ask them “who”, “what” and “where questions related to what they are doing.  These are the first question words that children learn to answer.

Finally, make sure you have a good camera with you so that you can take pictures of what is going on and then later on, at bedtime, take out the camera and then go over what happened during the day.  This is a lovely end of the day routine to follow and it will be customized uniquely to you and your family!

The most important thing to do this summer is have fun!

Feel free to reply to this post for ideas that you may want to share about activities you have come across that others may want to hear about or if you have questions for others who may be able to share some ideas….

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