Summer vacation is upon us! It’s a time to catch your breath and take a break from the daily grind. However, for parents raising children with special needs, summer time doesn’t necessarily mean “care free.” Yes, there is no home work, and you don’t need to get your child up by 6 a.m. to meet the bus — but if you are like me, you work at making summer a fun, structured experience for your child.
A few tips and tricks I learned over the years…
- Maintain structure throughout the day: I began from the time Ryan awakened and continued to bed time. Some families have a therapist or sitter come to the house, other children attend group childcare, and there’s also the option of a day camp. I kept the day structured by having Ryan and a sitter work on academics in the morning and afternoons were spent at the local pool, zoo or beach. Rainy days like today found him at the museum or the Tom Ridge Environmental Center.
- Have a list with variety of options to choose from: Ryan and I always discussed what the various options were for activities. He had the opportunity to choose within the limits I set, and in that way he felt in charge. Typically outdoor activities, such as swimming, basketball and bicycling were high on his list.
- Explore sports and recreational lessons: Swimming is fun, and it’s worth considering swimming lessons. If you think a group swimming class might not work for your child, very often private lessons are available at your local YMCA. This was best for Ryan. At age three, Ryan spent the initial six week session with the lifeguard simply pouring water over his head. Today, he’ll swim laps for 60+ minutes. He’s so proficient that pool time gives me the opportunity to sit back, relax and read a book. It’s possible for you too!
- Make time for yourself: Ask your siblings, spouse or friends if they could give you a break for an hour or two once a week. This could be at your home so you can supervise what’s going on, but at the very least, it’s an hour break. It’s time for you to refresh.
- Prepare for the next school year throughout the summer: I had pictures of Ryan’s new teachers. We went to school, met with the principal, and located his new classrooms and locker. I hoped to decrease his anxiety by giving him concrete information about the upcoming year. I started this in June and continued until school started. He needed the time to get used to the fact that he’d be with new people in new locations, and it gave him a “heads up” as to what to expect.
I’d love to hear your tips and tricks, and I encourage you to find some time to relax and enjoy summer. Hopefully the rain will stop, and we can enjoy the fun and sun of summer.