What To Do During Summer Months?
Keeping typical children busy during the summer is a difficult task. Doing the same with a special needs child or a child affected by autism is even more difficult and daunting! Much needs to be considered and reviewed to meet the child’s unique needs, capabilities, and interests, all while keeping them busy and pushing them towards their goals.
Parents should address the following:
- What services are needed 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 your team considering any alternative therapies during the summer break? (i.e. reading interventions, listening therapies, etc.)
- What does your current specialist or service team recommend for your child?
- How many hours and what types of content can my child tolerate on a typical summer day?
- What is the appropriate age group? Selecting a group based on your child’s developmental age versus chronological age should be reviewed with the professionals that work with your child.
First, work with your IEP team to finalize any Extended School Year (ESY) services your child needs. Not all students with IEPs qualify for ESY. Specific policies vary by state; criteria your team will consider include regression/recoupment of skills, behavior issues, and window of opportunity to develop emerging skills. (For more information about advocating for ESY services, consult Wrightslaw.) Independent assessments can help make the case for ESY. Have your specialists address ESY criteria in the recommendations.
If your child does not qualify for ESY, or if summer services are offered on an abbreviated schedule, you’ll find yourself with hours to fill that are normally occupied by school. Some ideas to consider:
- Summer programs at camps, community centers, or a local day care program, with an aide if needed. It is important to consider time spent outdoors, especially if your child has poor heat tolerance.
- School curriculum preload. Purchase or borrow grade-level materials from your school or local library. Introduce your child to content for the upcoming school year or shore up any deficiencies from the previous year.
- Summer can be a great time to try alternative and augmentative therapies, particularly any that require large blocks of time or multiple sessions per week. Examples include reading interventions, Interactive Metronome, listening therapy, vision therapy, HBOT, or neurofeedback.
- Swimming lessons and other fun water activities. Contact your local community center or research local swim teams that offer lessons.
- Catch up on appointments! Schedule appointments with your doctor, dentist, and other service providers during the summer. Summer is a great time to run medical tests and assessments you have been putting off, and to try any new interventions that need careful monitoring.
- Plan outings. New activities teach flexibility and help parents avoid a rut, too. Local universities, museums, and libraries often offer programs for school-age children that are fun and educational.
- And if all else fails: PRAY FOR SCHOOL TO START SOON!