Today, June 21, is officially the first day of summer. Chicago kids are out of school and families are looking for ways to fill up long, sun-filled days in the Windy City.
For parents who have children with special needs, summer brings added stress. Kids with special needs generally do better with routine. The months of June, July and August typically work against routine, with families going on vacation and children trying to function outside of a structured school day.
Here are five ways to start summer off right in Chicago with your child who has special needs:
1) Make a plan. You know your child best, and if she is a kid that needs a plan, make one. It’s easier said then done to establish a plan if you parent multiple children, but still vital in order to have a successful summer. Figure out a general family schedule, and look for opportunities to provide your child who has special needs with familiar activities. An example would be if your child presents Sensory Processing Disorder (priorly known as Sensory Integration Dysfunction), in the midst of running other kids to summer camp and play dates, make sure he is allotted opportunity throughout the day to feed his sensory diet. If he swings in a therapy swing, lock that time in as an activity in the family schedule.
2) Utilize ESY, extended school year through Chicago Public Schools. If you have a school-aged child, you should have received a form from the school where she attends requesting permission for participation. ESY typically lasts four weeks, and provides your kid the needed school structure she is familiar with and also helps her fight regression over the summer months. If you are interested in finding out more about the ESY program, it is best to contact your school’s office for details.
3) Search opportunities in the city. Find out what opportunities exist specifically for kids with special needs during the summer months in Chicago. Great resources include Chicago Parent Magazine, ActivityTree.com, ChicagoKids.com and A Big Blast Project for Special Kids.
4) Think outside of the box. If regression is a concern for you over the summer months and insurance doesn’t cover extra therapy, a low cost alternative is finding a summer therapy helper. Put an ad on Craigslist or on Sittercity.com for college students Majoring in Special Education, Speech Pathology, Physical Therapy, or Occupational Therapy. Interview candidates willing to work with your child for a low hourly rate, but mostly for the exposure and experience the opportunity would provide them in their field of interest.
5) Take a deep breath and have fun! Summer can be difficult for any parent, but even more so for a parent to a child with special needs. Pay heed to your plan, but also, take a deep breath and try to enjoy the days of summer. Remember to seek out times for yourself as a parent. Self-care is a vital component to a successful summer.
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