The days of summer are almost here. After a cold winter here in the Chicago area and 10 feet of snow in March, I am so ready for the warm breeze, cook out invites and endless days of summer to quickly arrive. Summertime also welcomes more free time for children with special needs. This is a problem for many parents. I often hear “Johnny is off his schedule again and staying up until midnight, I’m so sorry he’s tired again today.” or “Little Suzie is bored all day; I’m at wits end and just can’t wait until school starts again!”
If you’re feeling the panic with summer right around the corner, you are certainly not alone. To countdown to summer, I’ll be talking about a few helpful strategies to help maintain your sanity, increase learning opportunities for your child and ease the transition into Summer and the next school year.
Summer Tip #1:
Create a schedule and stick to it. This is by far the hardest tip for parents of a special needs child. I’m sure most of you are thinking, “A schedule? In the summer? Yeah right!” It’s much simpler than it sounds. All you have to do is chose four things to keep consistent this summer. This should definitely include wake up times, nap times (if still required by the child) and bedtimes.
Wake up times and bedtimes can definitely be adjusted a little for the summer, but I would not recommend venturing too far off, as you want the transition back into the school routine to be as gentle as possible. Keep bedtime and wake up times scheduled for within 45 minutes of the usual school schedule. Of course it’s tempting to let them sleep in so you get just a bit more time to yourself, but you will certainly regret this when it spirals into a full summer of late nights and late mornings. Come fall, your child may struggle getting back into the swing of things and this could certainly affect their school performance.
As for the empty slots on the schedule you wish to maintain this summer, it could be as simple as scheduling in consistent meal times or coloring time at 1:00pm every day. If that is just too much for your family, try planning things such as a walk to the park every Saturday after dinner. You could also connect with another special needs family and switch out drop off play dates. I’m sure you get how this is a win-win situation for any parent!
To ensure everyone in the family is kept up to date on scheduling, purchase a magnetic dry erase calendar for the fridge and get everyone in the habit of checking in on it once a week. If you have a child that requires the use of visual schedules, print one off and laminate it. Make sure you keep the four scheduled items the same to help even yourself stick to the schedule. Schedules are so very important to children with special needs. Keep in mind that school schedules rarely change by surprise. Do your best to notify your child of any schedule changes as soon as possible.
Be sure to stop by next week for another tip! Share your own summer schedule suggestions in the comments section below!”
– Michelle O’Neill, AHSS Lead Skills Coach and mother to a special needs child, plus 2!