Summer Routines for Your Special Needs Child
I’m not sure how it happened, but suddenly the school year is nearly done. My husband and I have been talking for the last couple of months about what we were going to do with our boys during their weeks off, but the decisions about what my kiddos will do with their time has become more pressing.
No doubt you are also facing the same conundrums, especially if you have a child with special needs, so I thought I would use this month’s column to talk about what my family is doing this summer as you start thinking about what your summer will look like.
For the first time in a long time, we’ve decided to keep both of our boys home with me rather than sending them to a day camp. They have had so much fun at the day camps they’ve attended, but the idea was to save a bit of money by letting them have a summer off from all of that. I work from home so I knew this would give the boys a chance to have a summer where we can hang out and explore what they like and enjoy.
The only concern for me, though, was our oldest child, who is on the spectrum as you may have learned from my past columns, but consultations with his teachers have left me confident that he can stay home this summer provided I can keep a somewhat structured routine for our family. This is something I normally do anyway so the challenge is balancing fun activities that allow them both to be kids with maintaining the gains each has made this school year.
Let’s Try This…
I’m not going to lie: I’m intimidated by the idea of spending an entire summer with my boys. I will need to work around them, building in time each day to get something done. This will require both kids finding an activity that will keep them occupied enough that I can concentrate. In addition, I’ve discovered that the youngest will still need a nap to avoid the inevitable crankiness that rears its ugly head about 3 pm without one. For now, my goal is for each day to look like this:
An activity, preferably outside of our home. Both kids love to swim so going to the pool is a must at least once a week. Pump It Up is another preferred destination, especially since they have sensory bounces for special needs children each week. The free kids’ movies at local theatres are also on our list. We are also thinking about a couple of week-long camps, like the Summer Music Camp from Music Together. The Everybody Can Play playground at Brahan Spring Park is also popular at my house. Their splash pad is always a good time!
After our morning activity, we will strive to be home for lunch and then, since I need to have a couple of hours to work, it’s time for an activity that the boys can do inside and without me. Sure, the boys can watch movies or play video games, both things I did as a kid, but I also want to find activities that will allow me to reinforce what they’ve learned over the school year. This is where Pinterest comes in, I’m sure.
Because our oldest is on the spectrum, we do everything we can to maintain routines while still injecting some variety into our week so that he can continue to adapt to days when those routines are interrupted. Sure, it’s summer so their bedtime will be a bit later than during the school year, but we will still maintain that routine.
If you have a special needs child, I cannot emphasize how beneficial it is to keep that bedtime routine the same during these months off from school. It has been one of the most helpful habits for that transition from school to summer and then back to school in August.
Now that our boys are getting older, turning 5 and 9 this year, we’ve made it our goal this summer to try some new things. Having a special needs child has made us wary of doing too many new things, like day trips, until now, but we don’t want either child to miss out now that they’re a little bit older and more into the experiences. We want to see the Nashville Zoo, the Georgia Aquarium, and more. We will try more sports, like tennis and soccer, through organizations like Top Soccer.
Since we have family in the Birmingham area, the boys are excited about playing with their cousins, visiting attractions like the McWane Center, and finding other fun things we can do in that area when we visit.
Before I Go…
My goal for the summer is to let the boys be kids and to explore as much as we can. I want to grow my oldest son’s social skills by pushing him out of his comfort zone at times. I want to see what my youngest child will discover and perhaps decide to pursue as he gets older. Then, when school starts again in August, maybe I’ll feel a little sad that my buddies are going back to school and maybe I’ll be alone at Starbucks enjoying my child-free days again.
Either way, I’m going to do my best to keep my children, special needs or typical, on a routine to support those transitions back to school while letting them have a summer to be kids. I’m intimidated by the idea of having them both home and balancing the challenges with the fun, but we need to try things, as we’re always telling our oldest child. We all need a wee push out of our comfort zone now and then, right?
Stay tuned here at Rocket City Mom for more about what’s happening in the Huntsville area this summer. Our new Special Kids Guide is a great place to start when you need to search for anything special needs related this summer. Making Connections will also have their 2016 Summer Activity Guide up as we head toward the last weeks of school.
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Jennifer Kelly grew up in the Birmingham area, but migrated to Huntsville for graduate school and put down roots after meeting her husband, Jamie. In addition to being a mom to her two boys, she is a tennis ninja, trivia nerd, freelance editor, and aspiring writer. You can visit her at The Sir Barton Project, a blog about her upcoming book.