Summer break: What it means for Special Needs Parents
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At the beginning of June, school begins to wind down, the
focus for the most part that month is on sports days, field trips, honor roll and school awards. Parents and kids alike are celebrating everywhere you look. Parents of special needs find themselves, exhausted from a school year spent making sure their kids needs were met, already planning for the next school year.
Typically in June, a meeting is held to review the school year and the child's individual education plan. The child's team, along with the parents discuss which goals the child the child has met and which ones to carry forward to the new school year. Teachers may also give parents some things to work on over the summer. We try to find out before school ends if our child will have the same educational assistant next year or if need to prep them over summer to work with someone new. Some parents are simply hoping that this will be the year their child will be able to attend a full day of school and not have to come home early everyday.
Summer break usually evokes thoughts of camping, backyard bbq's and lazy days on the beach. It's not that we don't get out and do those same things as everyone else. We do, but it's not all two months of bliss. Some families have difficulty doing these simple summer activities due to the needs of their children.
Two months of unstructured time can spell disaster for a child who thrives on a consistent schedule. In order to reduce the likelihood of having meltdowns and behavior issues, some families need to closely mimic the routine at home that the child is used to at school.
Most importantly kids go from having a team of people working with them to having parents provide solely for their needs.
Some parents decide to take time off from appointments by scheduling nothing for the first month to simply focus on family. One whole month without therapies, tests, and appointments is a rarity for these families. Guilt though, can also build up as feel you aren't doing enough by taking a break from it all.
Some families face funding problems or wait lists for services such as therapies, or respite. Getting a break from it all to have a night away with a spouse or spend one on one time with their other children can be a challenge at any time of the year. Balancing the needs of our other children and meeting the needs of special needs child can require some creative planning. Some parents are even unable to work, something that can be extremely difficult for a single parent who has a job but can't find childcare or a one on one support worker for their child to attend a childcare program.
School is also a great way for many of these kids to socialize and be around others they are familiar with. A trip to the park could mean sensory overload for a child or perhaps the local playground is not wheelchair accessible.
I know that perhaps families of typical children also look at summer break with some level of concern over how to keep children occupied, etc. Throw in the extra challenges families face with a special needs child and sometimes they yearn for school to start back up just to get back into a predictable routine for their child and family.