Surviving the Summer Break with Your Special Needs Kids

Let's Go Swimming!The end of the school year is a stressful time for parents of special needs kids. Kids with ADHD, autism, and other special needs tend to require more structure than other kids. In addition, therapy provided by schools is often not available over the summer.  For military families with special needs children, summers are even more stressful as it means either a PCS or watching your children’s friends PCS.

While the Washington Post was busy publishing an article about how lavish the commissaries are, I was struggling to provide a structured but fun but mixed with schoolwork day of summer activities to Science Kid and Word Boy in the midst of dealing with our own PCS later this month.

This week things reached their breaking point.

Science kid and Word Boy have been out of school for a month already. The very first week of vacation, their frenzied wrestling led to Science Kid getting 3 stitches on the back of his head. Sadly, the exact same injury happened to Word Boy only 14 months before that. This last week, in an act of anger at being put in time out, Science Kid, age 5, spread the urine soaked gel from his nighttime diaper all over Word Boy’s room. I had to wash sheets and stuffed animals, wipe down every board book, move furniture, and vacuum a loft bed. The clean up took well over an hour.

Summer Survival Plan: What Every Parent of a Special Needs Child Needs to Do

It is so important it is to have a “summer plan” for your special needs kids for both your sake and your chikdren’s sake.  Here are a few tips to help you build a summer plan that will work for your family.

Advocate for your child to attend Extended School Year (ESY)

Consider a summer camp targeted for kids with special needs. Ask your child’s therapy center or pediatrician if they know of any or check this list

Make a schedule to provide consistency

Schedule additional therapy; for example, I have increased ABA during summer months when additional hours were available

– Provide a sensory diet to keep your child’s senses organized

Integrate academic activities to stop the “summer slide” and to keep your child engaged

Sometimes Parents Need a Break…Take It!

So what happens when you do all of the above, and still find yourself cleaning diaper gel off stuffed animal fur and off a twilight turtle?

I suggest taking advantage of your base’s respite program, if they have one or looking for a sitter through Sittercity’s FREE military membership. With college out for the summer, there are special education students that might be available for babysitting.

As a special needs parent, it is important to take a break for yourself too.

For me, the night of “diaper gate” at our house, I relaxed the next morning got a small break when Science Kid and Word Boy attended a morning church camp.

Sometimes when life gives you lemons, you just have to make margaritas.


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