What To Do During Summer Months?

July 7th, 2010

Keeping typical children busy during the summer is a large and difficult task. Doing the same with a special needs child or a child affected by autism is an even MORE DIFFICULT AND A DAUNTING TASK! Much needs to be considered and reviewed to meet the child’s unique needs, capabilities, and interests all the while keeping them busy and pushing them towards their annual goals.

Keeping a child affected by autism busy during the long summer months can be overwhelming. Parents should address the following questions before selecting a summer program.

  • What are the necessary services after school or summer school ends to maintain and develop skills?
  • Does your child regress without some sort of intervention or activity?
  • What activities does your child enjoy that will also help reach his/her current IEP (Individualized Education Program) goals?
  • What is the right combination of seasonal activities and therapy hours to help your child maintain and achieve necessary skills?
  • Is the team considering any alternative therapies during the summer break? (i.e. Fast 4Word, Listening Therapies, etc.)
  • What does your current specialist or services team recommend for your child?
  • What can my child tolerate in number of hours and in content for the summer day?
  • What age group should I put my child in? (Selecting a group based on your child’s developmental age versus chronological age should be reviewed with the professionals that work with your child.)

It is important to also review outdoor activities since it may be too hot for your child. Consider weather and location as part of your decision process.

Here are some ideas for you to consider:

1. There are many camps in our Provider Directory and search for “Camps.”

2. Now what to do about regression during summer? The way I can relate is by explaining the options we reviewed for our son for your review:

  • Camps & community centers. We signed Jeff up for a camp with an aide for three days a week throughout the entire summer excluding planned vacation times. He would go from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. and still do speech and occupational therapy, and some afternoon ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) sessions.
  • Another idea (as appropriate for each child) would be a preschool sign up, or a “Kindercare” preschool and elementary school aged daycare for social activities. You could also try joining an organized daycare program at your local community center for activities or play groups–with an aide (as needed).
  • School curriculum preload.  Purchase or borrow from your local library books like “What Every ____(Grades K-8) Grader Should Know” that have preschool thru high school grade level content and workbooks supporting each year’s curriculum. Each summer, my husband and I prep and introduce our son to the abstract content for the upcoming school year.  We also shore up any deficiencies from the previous year.
  • Doing the alternative and augmentative therapies such as:

Typically, these activities easily take up 2 to 3 hours each day, Monday-Friday. There is also a significant cost for these activities so reviewing these at your IEP and health insurance reimbursement options is important.

  • Get caught up on all those appointments! Schedule appointments with your doctor, dentist, audiologist, vision and any other follow up biomedical appointments during the summer. It is a great time to get those medical tests and assessments you have been putting off and to try the new biomedical interventions during the summer for careful monitoring and coordination with your doctor(s).
  • Plan outings.  A great book, Fun and Educational Places to Go with Kids and Adults in Southern California by Susan Peterson, demonstrates hundreds of options right in your own backyard (if you are outside of California, there are many similar local interest books with activities and places great for families and kids). I would open the book and pick an activity by flipping the pages, pointing to a page with my eyes closed. Then, off we would go!  It was great to keep my son flexible and not get stuck in a rut, including me, the mom! Some of the activities were total duds, but many were great fun and I am glad we went.  This type of book is available in every geographic area across the U.S.
  • Your local universities, museums, and libraries often offer programs for school aged children that are fun and educational. Given your child’s unique needs, their ability to work with or without aides, and the program content (i.e., hand’s on, lectured based, or visually oriented, etc.), these make wonderful alternatives to consider.
  • And they all time favorite – PRAY FOR SCHOOL TO START SOON!

3. Getting the IEP in place with these activities is a very important first step. Have your independent assessments in place with recommendations for your child. A minimal consideration for the summer should include at least having an aide, afternoon ABA and other services such as speech and occupation therapy to continue on to prevent regression.

  • The key is having your specialists indicate in writing how long your kid can go without structure to prevent regression. And of course, some time off from the day to day drills is a good idea. The amount of “down time” is what is determined by each child.
  • Some choose school-based summer school with a very light August and a very light holiday break during December as a negotiating point to curb a child’s regression.

I hope this provides some basic ideas for your review and your child’s professional team for a fun-filled, non-regressive summer!

Note: Please do not misconstrue this as advice for replacement of the necessary therapy hours your child needs! It is also recommended that you contact your special education attorney regarding the necessary steps to take in getting the summer activities itemized in your IEP.

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