What a great word!
Fun and sun and time off and well, you get the point.
But summer to us always has a bit more reality attached to it because of Elizabeth and her disorders. Being off with no real schedule can create an anxiety in her that would be akin to others having too much to do. Or the fact that there have always been therapies to go to or that the follow-up work needs to be done.
Making sure to have as much fun as possible while still getting in the work that needs done is the goal. So that there will be no “summer slide” which is the term for the loss of or regression of skills that can occur over an extended break from school…such as summer. Children with special needs can be affected even more than others.
So how do you balance the learning with the fun?
For me, looking at the IEP goals to see which ones I really want to work on with Elizabeth is my first step. I use it to determine which goals I want to prioritize and make plans for therapies and/or follow up work at home.
From this point I try to share these goals with those who are working with her in the summer, sort of to get everyone on the same page.
One thing that is important to do, I feel, is to talk to your child about their feelings about summer. It is always nice to get an idea of what Elizabeth wanted to do or NOT do! I think it shows her how much we value her opinions and feelings by asking her these feelings and our schedule will then reflect both the needs I see the things she wants to do.
Goal number one is to enjoy her!!
Something else that works for us to make a schedule for Elizabeth to see each day. It is usually on a calendar so that she can see the week at a glance as well as the day. This helps her to plan for what is coming next and is a great source of conversation. When Elizabeth was non-verbal and talking was not an option, we used picture charts and wipe off boards to help with communication.
Another thing we learned early on in this journey is to get a mind set of “doing everything with a purpose” meaning to use any and all activities as a chance to get some “work” in. For instance, singing certain sounds or words in the car can incorporate some speech goals while playing hopscotch or bubbles can get in some nice gross motor work. This mindset will help you achieve goals you have made but not lose the fun.
Also, I learned the importance of keeping a record of all the things done, tried and successes in them. This helps when you are updating the school for the new year because trying to remember things and dates will be challenging even if you are sure you won’t forget something big!
I hope some of these ideas and things we did will be helpful as we get into the swing of summer.
I wish everyone a peaceful month.
Michele Gianetti author of “I Believe In You: A Mother and Daughter’s Special Journey” and “Emily’s Sister”