19 Summer Tips From Special Needs Parents

Child blow up slide

With the summer just a month away parents are starting to feel the heat. Kids will be out of school and the challenge of providing a structured and fun summer are weighing heavily on the minds of parents.

Netbuddy - Special Needs ResourcesTo make you a little less worried Netbuddy has collected 19 tips from parents of children with special needs on who to get through the summer break.

1. Timelines

Visual timelines are really important during the holidays, as every day is different.   Get a calendar for the holiday and use photographs of who is visiting and where you are going.  Try and stick to some kind of routine e.g. visits out are always in the afternoon, or a soft play center is always on the same weekday.

2. Leisure time planner

We have a leisure time planner for our eldest so that he can do things in one hour rotations, otherwise he would spend all day doing exactly the same thing during the holidays.

3. Go for picnics

Eating out on vacations can be quite difficult for us. Instead we have lots of picnics – lovely countryside and weather helps! Picnics are easier to manage and therefore more relaxing. What a vacation should be about.

4. Separate outings bag

I keep a separate outings bag always packed and ready to go with a change of clothes, pads and wipes etc. I just need to add snacks and that way I’m not flying around at the last minute when going out.

5. Transporting medications

When we are out and about, instead of taking my son’s medication bottles with us, we measure the meds out in a syringe and pop them in one of his old glasses cases to transport them (it holds 2 syringes perfectly!)

6. Camping success

Slippery sleeping bags and inflatable mattresses don’t mix for my son who has cerebral palsy. We got a good quality DOUBLE mattress and sewed 12-14 big sturdy eyelets around the edges of a fitted sheet. Then we attached a SINGLE duvet cover onto the top of the sheet, sewing down either side leaving enough room for getting in and out/ comfort. Put duvet in first then fit sheet onto mattress using webbing through the eyelets tied underneath. Works like a dream!

7. Bike it

To make a change from using the buggy/wheel chair we often take Pete out on a Tricycle.

8. A real catch!

A velcro ball and catch mitt set has been fantastic for my son who is unable to catch a regular ball.  Great for fun, cause and effect and coordination.

9. Trampolines

Our family bought Janet a trampoline which has been brilliant for her and has also been great for our other kids and their friends.

10. Vacation routine

Without the routine of school, my son acts up, so vacations can be hell. I now prepare a vacation routine for him. Even just a basic structure helps, like: ‘wash, get dressed, breakfast, park or some other activity, lunch, play or video, dinner, bath-time, bed with story or DVD’.

11. Summer time eating therapy

Meals times are often a source of friction, so  in the summer I put a tent up in the garden and we eat in a tent. For some reason the change of scene distracts from what the food is and it gets eaten and I get to lie down whilst he eats!

12. No surprises

Every time we go to a new vacation destination my son is adamantly against it.  We have to get him excited about a new place.  Show him what they have there, why he is going to like it and prepare him for the adventure. We involve him in the research and planning, and most importantly, don’t surprise him.

13. Clean change

Changing older kids can be challenging when you’re out and about.  They are too big for change units & the floors are too dirty to lay them on.  I take a plastic tablecloth out to lay on a dirty floor & just wipe clean afterwards – its small & portable.

14. Remembering days out

Make it easier to communicate about days out – use a camcorder or camera phone and scrapbook to record special moments that you can look at together at the end of the day. Use a scrapbook to tell other people about favorite days out.

15. Cue cards

If you use visual cues to communicate – have small versions of the pictures laminated and attached to a belt ring so that “toilet” “stop” ” drink ” signs or whatever is most important to the child is readily and quickly available.  You can then take them out when shopping etc.

16. Practice beforehand

It’s a good idea to role play with the person what to do if he/she gets lost, making sure they know where to find and how to present their identification card and what to say.

17. Planning ahead

Always have little snacks and toys when you go on an outing. John loves his special Mary Poppins backpack where we keep his favorite things which I use to comfort and calm him if it all becomes too stressful or noisy for him.  I put in his Nintendo, a toy, a book, drink, snack/treat and also a walkman so he can listen to a story or music.

18. We can see you

When we go out to busy places with Lilly she wears a bright colored cap for us so we can quickly see where she is at all times.

19. Handy toys

When travelling in the car attach favorite toys or fidgets to long springy key-rings or ribbons. I clip these onto a loop of elastic around the headrest. This way everything stays within their reach.

Share your best summer tips in the comments below!

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Emma Sterland

Written on 2013/05/20 by:

Emma Sterland

Emma Sterland is the website manager of www.netbuddy.org.uk, a practical tip-swapping site and online community for parents, carers and special needs professionals. All the tips contributed to the site are from people with first-hand experience of special needs, and are organised by topic. New tips are always welcome!
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