6 Tips for Special Needs Summer Survival

Well, here we all are, knee-deep in the long summer school break.

Sensory Summer Fun
Sensory Summer Fun

It can be a time of stress for many parents of children with additional needs, children who thrive on routine or whose care leaves unsupported parents without any respite. Working parents have long been highlighting the difficulties of finding quality childcare that can adequately and affordably cater for young people with disabilities. (Read Special Needs Jungle guest post by Mrboosmum on the subject here.)

Others find the more relaxed pace a godsend, a chance to indulge in the activities that suit your child the most. But whatever your experience, you might just be grateful for a few extra ideas to get you over the holiday hump in the road. Here are our tips for summer survival:

  1. Try a relaxed performance at a local cinema or theatre. These performances have sound and lighting levels adjusted to suit those with sensory processing or communication needs, and no-one will stare stonily at you if your child makes a noise. The scheme is being rolled out UK-wide. Oh, and don't forget to apply for a CEA (Cinema Exhibitors' Association) card. It enables film-goers a year's access for only £6 if they have a disability.
  2. Ask your GP for a letter if a member of your family is unable to stand or queue. You can then apply to theme parks and tourist attractions for Ride Access Passes. Be sure to do this well in advance, directly with each park, as they all have different policies. Some attractions will let carers and those in receipt of DLA in at a concessionary rate, or even free of charge. It's always worth asking.
  3. Many families swear by the fabulous Go To seat by Firefly. It is a light portable device that gives support to your child on the move, in supermarket trolleys, at the park and in seating on holiday. Some have even used it on a plane.
  4. When things get tough and your child is melting down over dressing, refusing to brush their teeth or lashing out at a sibling, when you have tried everything you can think of to calm them down whilst school shoe shopping, when a trip to the hairdressers is long overdue, NetBuddy might just be your saviour. They have a website where you can swap tips with experienced parents and find what worked for them. You'll be surprised at the topic covered, and you'll know your aren't alone.
  5. Make a journal of the holidays together. This could take the form of drawings or postcards and pictures stuck in a scrap book, or your child could write a few words or sentences about what you have enjoyed together. My favourite way of creating a simple journal to send our daughter to school with at the start of term is to use a talking book which allows you to record a short phrase on each page, which can contain a photo or drawing, or even a small object found whilst out and about.
  6. If you're running out of ideas for rainy day activities, outdoor games that won't cost a penny, then look no further than Pinterest. You can even collect ideas on virtual pinboards ahead of time. Have a peek at these sensory games for example.

Most importantly, don't forget to have fun!

Hayley Goleniowska
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Hayley Goleniowska

Parent Advocate/Blogger at Downsside Up
Hayley Goleniowska is the author of the popular blog, Downs Side Up, where she writes about life with her daughters, one of whom has Downs Syndrome, and other issues surrounding disability.
Hayley Goleniowska
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