Planning summer learning for a special needs child comes with unique challenges along with so many opportunities for deep joy and learning. Much of the planning you do for your special needs child may resemble what you provide for your other children, but there will also be distinct differences and modifications along the way.
Don’t Focus on Challenges
If your child has special needs, you may often find yourself focusing on his challenges. This summer, focus on your child’s strengths. Consider everything he has accomplished during the school year. Summer learning provides the opportunity to create extension activities that reinforce concepts he spent previous years mastering.
I have a son with special needs. He is legally blind and has Asperger’s. This has proven to be both a gift and a challenge for our entire family. However, the bottom line is that it has made us all kinder, more patient and more creative. With that in mind, here is a list of things I have learned and some ideas to help you think creatively this summer:
While your child may enjoy time with family and engaging in different activities, schedule changes can also be very challenging, depending on your child’s circumstances. Help prepare your child for the summer changes by referencing them in casual conversation, whenever possible.
Ask your child to list the things she wants to see, do and learn. If these ideas are hard for your child to articulate, ask her to point to pictures in books and magazines. Cut out these images to make a collage and then hang your child’s wish list where she can see it daily. Reference this list often and attempt to do as much as the summer will allow.
Establish and maintain a routine.
Your child is likely to respond better if he knows what to anticipate each day.
Summer is a perfect time to reinforce skills your child has worked on already. If your child has been perfecting appropriate table manners, for example, let him celebrate his success at a fancy restaurant this summer. If your child has mastered new safety skills, provide opportunities for her to spread her wings and enjoy increased independence in an appropriate setting. Perhaps this means walking to a neighbor’s or doing a project in the community.
Excellent opportunities for authentic learning and significant growth are limitless with the right approach.
Seek out local families with special needs children. What sort of programs are they tapping into this summer? Some of these might be a fit for your child. Ask these parents if they are interested in weekly play dates as well.
Connect with other parents of special needs children. Raising a special needs child can be a lonely job. Connecting with others who understand your circumstances is important in the summer when your usual support ( therapists on vacation, etc.) may be less available.
Many special needs students have a relaxed academic schedule and receive fewer therapeutic hours during summer vacation. Developing a creative summer learning plan for your special needs child helps fill these gaps with meaningful learning opportunities and loads of fun!