For a parent of a child with special needs, the summer months can be anxiety provoking. If your child isn’t accessing summer services, the days ahead can loom with endless minutes to fill.  Ongoing, unstructured times can lead to skill regression and behavior issues, making the summer feel even scarier. But with prior planning, you and your child can have a fun-filled, enriching summer. Here are some things to help prepare you:


Establish a summer pattern

  • Wake up at a consistent time on weekdays to mimic the school year.
  • Get ready, even if you’re getting dressed to stay home. If you stay in your pajamas in front of the TV all summer, it will be hard to adjust next school year.
  • Establish a routine schedule for activities.


Make a calendar/schedule 

  • Have your child help develop the calendar. Choose stickers to mark certain activities or identify special activities together – a sense of ownership can break down resistance.
  • When introducing changes, use a sticker as change notification.
  • Sometimes the calendar is enough, but for others, each week, day and hour needs to be broken down.


Get moving

  • Don’t stay inside all summer! Plan activities that take you outdoors, even if it’s just playing in the back yard.


Keep in mind 

  • If your child is rigid and has a hard time with changes in routine, introduce the changes early and show how the routine will change with time.
  • Integrate academics into activities.
  • Plan activities with others to foster social skills.


Most importantly, develop a plan that you can follow through with. If you know that an 8:00 a.m. wake-up time will be challenging, set it back to something manageable. It doesn’t all have to be structured. Build in free time and encourage kids to stay away from technology during this time. Boredom fosters imagination!


For additional information, check out these websites:

82 Summer Activities for Families with Special Needs


Summer Strategies for Autism Families


Somewhat Simple Summer Schedule for Kids

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