Embracing Summer: 7 Ideas for Maintaining Routine with Your Student with Special Needs

Summer, with its warm weather and relaxed pace, holds the promise of endless fun and adventure. However, for families with children with special needs, the break from the structure of school routine can present unique challenges. While the summer months offer ample opportunities for sensory-rich activities, maintaining a sense of consistency and structure is crucial for the well-being of children with special needs. In this guide, we’ll explore practical tips and activities to help families navigate the summer while keeping routines intact and ensuring a fulfilling experience for both parents and children.

1. Prioritize Routine 

 The cornerstone of a successful summer lies in maintaining consistent meal times, bedtimes, and daily schedules. While the longer daylight hours might tempt you to veer off course, sticking to familiar routines provides a sense of stability for children with special needs. Consider using visual aids like picture schedules to outline the day’s activities, fostering a clear understanding of what to expect.

2. Sensory Fun at Home

Transform your home into a sensory wonderland with simple yet engaging activities. From playing with shaving cream to finger painting and sidewalk chalk art, explore different textures and mediums to stimulate your child’s senses. Experiment with unconventional painting tools like sticks on rocks or wood, offering a unique tactile experience. Adding sand to paint can introduce a new dimension to creativity while providing a satisfying sensory experience.

3. Beat the Heat Sensibly

For children sensitive to sunlight or heat, seeking out shaded or indoor activities can help  escape the sweltering temperatures. Plan visits to air-conditioned spaces like malls, libraries, children’s museums or movie theaters for a refreshing change of scenery. When engaging in outdoor activities, opt for early morning outings to avoid the peak heat hours. Look for parks with ample shade or water play areas to ensure a comfortable experience for your child.

4. Incorporate Movement into Daily Life

Encourage physical activity as part of your daily routine, whether it’s a leisurely stroll in the park or a brisk walk around the mall. Start with manageable distances and gradually increase the challenge to build endurance. Utilize visual aids like “First …, Then…” boards to clarify expectations and motivate participation in physical activities.

5. Embrace Water Play

Swimming offers an ideal outlet for sensory stimulation and physical exercise. The resistance provided by water promotes muscle strength and relaxation, making it particularly beneficial for children with special needs. Choose swimming venues carefully, considering factors like water temperature and noise levels to ensure a comfortable experience for your child.

6. Create a Sensory Bag

Equip yourself with a sensory toolkit containing items like putty, squeeze toys, and chewing gum to address sensory needs on the go. Comfort items such as blankets or favorite toys can provide reassurance during transitions to unfamiliar environments.

7. Travel with Confidence

Don’t let the fear of disruptions deter you from embarking on summer adventures. If traveling by car, plan for frequent movement breaks to prevent restlessness. Consider incorporating sensory-friendly activities like ball games or stretching exercises during pit stops. For motion sickness relief, explore natural remedies like ginger or invest in motion sickness wristbands for added comfort. In addition, always incorporate an activity schedule for your child with special needs, to help them anticipate the events of your trip and avoid any unnecessary anxiety.

As summer beckons with its promise of warmth and adventure, it’s essential to approach the season with thoughtful planning and preparation, especially for families with children with special needs. By prioritizing routine, embracing sensory-rich activities, and adapting to your child’s unique needs, you can create a fulfilling summer experience for the whole family. Remember to stay flexible, be patient, and focus on making cherished memories together. Here’s to a fun-filled and sensory-successful summer!