We are families first, and summer activities for children with disabilities, chronic health conditions or developmental delays carry many of the same delights and dangers as their mainstream brothers, sisters, cousins and neighbors.
Summer time is a good opportunity to refresh our spirits and spend long lazy days enjoying family life. Sometimes we overschedule our free time and forget that we all need a chance to reconnect with our loved ones, think about our own life plans, and make small changes in the direction our lives slide into during periods of high drama or a crisis.
Children may be desperate for a break from grades, bureaucracy and academic expectations. Parents may feel exhausted from school related activities, even positive ones, as well as late Spring IEP planning, the lack of extended school year programs, schedules full of doctor's appointments, second opinions and third party evaluations, a long winter or cold, soggy Spring.
It's good to ask for help. Our extended families and communities need to know what they can do to keep our children and nuclear families included in vacation plans, and active in traditional events or celebrations.
We are all going forward together. Very often, the reflection and forethought in planning for a child with special needs benefits others in the family and community.
Community event planners might need to be reminded that children with special needs are going to participate and enjoy whatever programs are offered. Sometimes even family members cannot guess what simple accommodations would be helpful or required, or what kind of challenges might arise unexpectedly.
Unexpected creativity and consideration given to our children's challenges during summertime may change the way we plan their fall and winter months. Some families find that their children who have been refused extended school year services or programs actually blossom when they are integrated into mainstream community activities or unplanned family life.
Summer time is a great season for experimentation and change. Families who are not able to change routines or travel should not count themselves out of the adventure.
It may lift our spirits to seek out an inexpensive set of dishes, glassware or decorative items that remind us of a vacation destination, or an activity that we once enjoyed, that we could also share with our families.
Some people have hobbies or collections that have become more of a responsibility than a pleasure. Summer is a great time to let go of items that seem valuable but are actually costing more in time, effort or space than they are worth to us or anyone else.
No matter how small we start with an idea, it can grow into something that brings a bit of freshness and fun into our lives. We are role models for happiness to our children. Let's use the summer to show them how it should be done!
Browse at your local bookstore, public library or online retailer for books like The Great Big Book of Children's Games - Cooperative Games for Children, or, The Complete Daily Curriculum for Early Childhood: Over 1200 Easy Activities to Support Multiple Intelligences and Learning Styles