Kids look forward to the summer and being free of school, but at the same time, many parents may feel a small twinge of panic when they think about the changes summer brings. The absence of the school structure and daily routine can be difficult on some families. Here are some ways to help successfully navigate summer months.
Create a Summer Routine
As much as we do not want to think about the upcoming school year at the start of summer, keeping the routine over the summer months off actually makes it easier to return to the fall routine for parents, kids and teachers.
“All children thrive on routine and consistency regardless of abilities, so it’s important to maintain and establish a routine for consistency” even in the summer months, says Lynee Bixler, director of marketing and communications for Julie Billiart School. “As with all children, it’s good to increase academic-boosting activities as much as possible, too.”
Karla Fitch, webmaster and social media manager at Connecting for Kids, suggests creating a collaborative schedule for the family in a recent article titled, “Creating a schedule at home for unstructured time.”
“Many children (both with and without disabilities) struggle with turn taking,” Fitch says. “In our case (as with many others) this was a skill that had to be taught. To teach my daughter turn taking, we presented opportunities (for example, using board games) and gave her lots of praise when she got it right. Timers, modeling and social stories can also be great tools to help children get it right.”
She suggests to begin with a three-prong approach to the collaborative schedule you do with your child, focusing on taking turns, must-dos (and want-to-dos), and then placing it on a visual schedule.
Fitch says to begin each day the same, by listing all the must-dos and want-to-dos, and then filling in the day’s schedule by taking turns and asking input from your child.
“We’ve learned that not every want-to-do gets on the schedule for the day, but there’s always room for it on the next day,” Fitch says. “This kind of give and take also helps to model priorities for my daughter. Your collaborative schedule won’t happen overnight. It’s a learning experience that will take time and a little patience to perfect. But after three summers of collaborative scheduling, I can tell you that our summers are filled with a lot fewer tantrums and a lot more good memories.”
Bixler says, “Flexibility is equally important and children with special needs should be introduced to change slowly.”
Structure Through Camps and Libraries
There are many opportunities throughout the summer for children to get involved in programs such as camps, recreational activities and continuing therapy goals.
Ronna Kaplan, chair of the Center for Music Therapy at The Music Settlement, points out, “School systems may work with families where Extended School Year services are deemed appropriate for their children to keep them on target and progressing during the summer months.”
A number of summer camps, such as The Music Settlement, offer inclusion opportunities for campers with disabilities.
Julie Billiart School also offers camps with recreational activities during the summer.
Bixler says the camps use evidence-based techniques to measure how children are progressing emotionally, socially and academically.
Libraries across Northeast Ohio also offer adapted activities, along with other programs such as reading, STEM, and camps for children of all ages and abilities.
“There is so much you can do,” says Sarah Rintamaki, executive director at Connecting for Kids. “There are a number of programs that are free at the libraries — to work on social skills, academics and more — going all summer long.”
Summer is about fun activities for the whole family, but it’s also a good time to help kids develop skills. Assigning chores to kids will teach responsibility, independence, and help build a sense of accomplishment and self-esteem. As children grow, adjust routines and chores according to the child’s age and ability.
Need a Resource?
Find information on available programs and services, including therapies, tutoring, camps and resources for medical, recreational and academic organizations both during the summer and school year.
- Connecting for Kids — connectingforkids.org/directory
- Collaborative Schedule — collaborativeschedule.com
- Milestones Autism Resources — milestones.org
- Summer and Beyond Directory from the Educational Service Center of Cuyahoga County State Support Team Region — bit.ly/2IhFRAq