Friday, July 20, 2012

Worst Things About Summer with Special Needs

With summer over halfway over, it should be obvious that it is not always fun and games when the kids are home all summer!  When you have a child with special needs, the dread a typical parent would feel about what to do all summer is magnified. Not only do we need to find something for our special needs child to do all summer, but also keep them from falling behind in any of the ways they have progressed in the past school year!
I have taken on the summer challenge with special needs in our lives several different ways in the past...let me tell you what doesn't work!

  • Allowing your child the summer "off." Maybe your child made great strides over the past school year, accomplishing things that you never thought they would. So you know that you would like the summer off, so why not your child? Well, by not practicing those skills over the summer, your special needs child will lose those skills that they worked so hard to gain. In reality, it's not exactly fair to your child...despite their protests about having the summer off.
  • Making your child do worksheets all summer, no exceptions. Some worksheets are fine, especially if their is a specific skill you are working on. But otherwise, worksheets are just busy work. Instead, get your child out and show them how the skills they are learning are used in real life. your child will learn it quicker, easier, and retain it longer.
  • Enrolling your child in one camp after another. We've done our share of camps, but too much can be a good thing. Be sure you mix special needs camps in with typical camps, so that your child can continue using their social skills.
  • Forcing your child to do typical summer activities: fireworks, running through the sprinkler, free movies that might be loud, summer cookout and get togethers, family reunions, playing in the sand, long road trips, etc. Now some kiddos might be able to tolerate any or all of these, but some may not. Only you as a parent know what your child is going to be able handle. 
  • Spontaneous, deciding on a whim to go on a day trip. Some kids love this, and sometimes it depends on where the trip is to. But if your kiddo is like mine, the trip would have to trump being in the comfort of his home, with his video games, and everything else that comforts him. When we do this, he will tell us he is "homesick" even if it has been 2 hours!
Things you can do...
  • Keep your child on a schedule, even if it's 30 minutes of play time, 30 minutes of reading, snack time, clean-up time, etc. That way, your child still knows that they can anticipate what is going to happen and just like in school, predictability breeds comfort.
  • Have your own camp...scrapbook camp: letting them help you with a scrapbook of their own photos; craft camp: use items around the house or from vacation to make whatever craft or object their imagination can come up with; and my favorite (!) camp grandma: let you child stay with your parents for a couple of nights. Maybe you won't hear that "why can't you be nice like grandma" anymore once they are with her for a couple of days! Haha, seriously, it's good for us to have a break from each other, even if it's overnight. My son loves spending the night with my mom and again, it's a great social skill to learn.
  • You might think that summer means a lack of the resources that are readily available to you during the school year, but you might be surprised at the number of those school teachers and aides that would be willing to meet with your child once a week or every other week for a small amount of money. No, you can't file it on your insurance and there is no co-pay...but paying Ethan's math tutor once a week over the summer to keep him at the same level where he was at the end of the year is a small price to pay in comparison to the costs in terms of work they would all have to put in to get him caught back up in September!
  • Keep your child on the same schedule during the summer that they have during the school year. I know it can be hard and sometimes we do vary it by 30 minutes or so. When we went on vacation, we allowed Ethan to stay up even later...only because we had a late dinner, then went to a little shop, with ice cream for dessert. But about 3 days into vacation, it was apparent that he needed his schedule back. So as hard as it was to stay in after 7:30, one of us stayed in with him.
Remember, your special needs kiddo needs those boundaries to feel comfortable. They are not doing this to ruin your summer or destroy your dreams. It is hard for us as parents sometimes, not to resent what has been placed on us...but it is even harder on our kiddos and they need us to be strong for them. 


  1. Hey-- looks like we have quite a bit in common! My two girls are on the autism spectrum, and I TOTALLY feel your pain! I even wrote a post earlier this summer about our Summer Schedule. :) So glad I found you on the Mingle!

  2. Really nice post! Summer, especially August is always so challenging. I used to pray for September when school started but my daughter no longer attends school, so now I just stick with our same routine all year around. Routine, routine, routine is the key for my tiara.