School holidays are here or fast approaching. Although children are delighted, parents of children with special needs know it is a challenging time.
The end of school means the end of children’s daily routines. Structure and routine are important for children with special needs. Established routines lessen children’s anxieties and help them manage their daily activities.
Here are some tips to help your children adapt to the changes in their routines and hopefully reduce anxiety and meltdowns.
1. Develop a schedule for a typical day during your special needs children’s school breaks
Take some time to plan your child’s summer break and develop a daily routine for her. Include your child in the planning as much as possible. Use the questions below for ideas about what to include in this schedule.
- What routines will stay the same? Bedtime, meal times, etc.
- What routines will change? Dressing, wake up time, etc.
- Are there particular skills you want to work on with your child over the summer? Social skills, coördination, riding a bike, swimming, etc.
- Does your child need help with a particular subject this summer?
- Does your child have medical or therapy appointments over the summer?
- Are there exercises or other activities you need to do to keep up your child’s progress? Think about handwriting, reading, motor skills exercises, touch typing, etc.
- Is your family going away from home for a holiday?
- Is your child going to a camp?
- If your child will be starting a new school next year, is she prepared for that transition?
- If you are working, who will look after your child and what types of activities will that person do. Do you have a backup babysitter/caretaker if that person is sick?
- When do you need to start preparing for the next school year?
- Do not forget to think of yourself! As a caregiver, you probably need a break, so schedule one if you can.
Write the routine on paper or a large poster. Include pictures, as many children with special needs are visual learners. Put a copy of the summer routine somewhere prominent, like your refrigerator, so your child sees it often. Periodically review the new routine with your child to see what is working.
2. Keep a calendar of your special needs child’s schedule during summer holidays
A large calendar is a great way to countdown the days to the start of summer vacation and to show the time left until the start of the new school year.
Mark off each day on the calendar with your child, so she gradually prepares for changes in her routine. On days when your child’s routine changes because of a family outing, holiday or appointment, show those events on the calendar.
3. Help your children stay in touch with friends during their summer holidays.
Making and maintaining friendships is hard for many children with special needs, so keep your children in touch with friends during the summer break.
Remind older children to get phone numbers and email addresses for their friends. For younger children, get parents’ contact information to arrange play dates.
Have a great summer!