Ok, I just realized maybe I could’ve done this sooner in case some parents don’t have these things in place but if not hopefully it’ll help with future plans! Here are some ways parents of special kids can get through summer:
Extended School Year
Children with special needs should have year-round reinforcement of what’s in their IEP (Individual Education Plan). Many children are eligible for what is called “extended school year.” What this means is during the summer they still attend school, usually for 6 weeks, and get the same related services such as speech, occupational, and physical therapy that they had during the school year. Parents used to have to prove that their children “regressed” and lost skills but now it’s even easier to get ESY. There’s a great write-up with more details on the Wrightslaw site at www.wrightslaw.com/info/esy.index.htm . If you have any problems getting ESY for your child, contact your Parent Training and Information Center for free help found at www.taalliance.org/ptidirectory/index.asp .
Camp-Including Special Kids
There are many types of camps: some “typical”, some mixed, and some just for children with special needs. I personally had a hard time because my daughter has both kidney disease and autism (so the medical places were concerned about her behavior and the autism camps were fearful of her health status). So to help other parents, I wrote an article for Exceptional Parent on finding special camps which can be found at http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_go2827/is_3_31/ai_n28830848/ . There’s an excellent national listing of special camps found at www.familyvillage.wisc.edu/leisure/camps.html . Note: What works for us is having her go to camp the weeks before and after ESY and she still gets a week off. Special note on vacations: if you’re going someplace, prepare your child ahead of time with a story, how to travel, and bring things to keep him/her occupied during the trip!
Helping your child-Stay in a Routine
If your child doesn’t go to ESY or camp, what else can you do? One thing I found out is to keep my daughter in a routine each day, otherwise she’s like a “lost lamb” and actually acts more “autistic”! We keep her regular bedtime, wakeup, meals. We also keep all her therapies going year-round. Besides school therapies, my daughter has participated in special needs dance, Very Special Arts, therapeutic horseback riding, arts & crafts, Gymboree, music therapy, vocational/self advocacy training, Special Olympics etc. Next month I’ll get a list together of recreational activities. Even if we stay home, I might write up a daily schedule that looks something like this:
Stephanie’s Schedule for Today
Saturday April 10
Get up & get ready for the day (get dressed & wash up)
Michael’s Kids Club 10-11
Howell Farm baby chicks & egg decorating 1-3
Special Easter movie
Get ready for bed & go to sleep
You can put times or pictures next to each activity but you get the idea. It’s ok to have downtime but helps if your child knows what to expect. You might even want to do a basic schedule form and just write in activities each day. Also, you can give your child choices (pick between 2 activities) or have them help plan the schedule. My daughter actually asks what her schedule is and wants to know. We also have a list of indoor and outdoor places to go and activities to do at home: like toys, music, exercise, books, crafts, computer, etc. If all else fails, check out the “Mom I’m Bored Jar” at www.somewhatsimple.com/2010/06/mom-im-bored-jar.html . Hang in there and remember that enjoying activities like blowing bubbles, walks in the park, reading books, watching silly kids’ movies etc. with your child are the things that fun memories are made of for both of you!