Overcoming Summer Challenges for the Special Needs Family
Most people think of summer as some of the best months of their life. The weather is warm…the sun is hot…the event invites are strong. Of course, for families of young children, managing all of this can be quite the hurdle. Throw in a special needs diagnosis and the hurdles increase unimaginably. Luckily, families now have plenty of options for summer programs and even greater list of tips and tools to make summer less stressful.
With summer comes more opportunities for unstructured periods of time and increased boredom. Add working parents into the mix and it’s a stressful rush to get kids into summer camps, sports and various activities to ensure supervision coverage. Parents of children with special needs often face very different challenges.
Lack of Structure and Routine
Structure and routine are often a must for children with disabilities. Life for them needs to be predictable and when it’s not, their world can feel as though it is crumbling to the ground. It happens every year…those few weeks between school services, such as Extended School Year, for example. Parents become stressed out as the sole support system for their child and their child becomes anxious with no rhyme or rhythm to their daily life after having it all school year.
Decrease in Therapies and Supports
Many children with special needs carry in-school services that are provided by their school districts. The supports provided at school can include anything from social work, speech therapy and occupational therapy minutes. It can also include a 1:1 aide that supports them day in and day out. At the end of the school year, these services tend to vanish, which is also why in-home therapies, such as ABA Therapy are vital to maintain throughout the entire year.
Finding Appropriate Summer Programs
Extended School Year (ESY) is often times provided by law through the school district based off your child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) when it is determined that the child may regress during time away from school. Still, these services are often limited and even only provide half day opportunities for continued supports. Summer camps designated for the special needs community are limited and often come with a high price.
Stressful Childcare Situations
Daycares, nannies and babysitters alike all carry a certain challenge for the special needs family. Most of the time, these childcare options are ill-equipped to handle special needs children and it is often up to the parents to spend extra time and money training these providers or paying for already qualified providers. 9 times out of 10, a parent has to sacrifice income and work opportunities in order to stay home with their special needs child.
Vacations are meant for relaxation…getting away from the stressors of everyday life. The challenges of leaving home with a special needs child are often overwhelming. When you think of managing travel times and methods, navigating hotels and restaurants, and finding special opportunities for fun for the whole family, vacation options feel very limited. Put into play the feeling of being judged in a whole new environment and the special needs parent/caretaker may actually need a vacation from their actual vacation!
Overcoming Summer Challenges
When push comes to shove, summer can actually be very predictable. Think about it. Summer comes at the same time every year and you know exactly how long its going to last in advance. This gives you time to get all your ducks in a row to ensure for a stress-free summer. Here are some helpful tips to help you manage your summer stresses and lead to a more successful year for your whole family.
Guide by Ms. Michelle , RBT, ABCS Senior Therapist