The last day of school for special needs kids can often bring utter chaos to your household. In our case, the bedtime of our son’s last day of school was highly traumatic for him. He cried for hours because he wasn’t going to see his friends or his teachers anymore. We are moving him to a closer school to our home and he will do his second year of special needs preschool there.
After a little digging in conversations with him and a couple days without school, we discovered that he was really craving that stability and schedule school created for him. He liked knowing that for 4 days of the week at a particular time the bus picked him up and then dropped him off at home after school. It was predictable and it was safe.
That kind of threw us a giant hurdle as we weren’t prepared for him to be upset about not being on a schedule. I am still working on this right now, but we have our normal weekend schedule to some degree so that helps for now.
Schedules and predictability are common denominators with special needs children. We knew our son gets frustrated when he doesn’t eat at a specific time or if he doesn’t go to bed or bathe at specific time. However, we didn’t realize that other things throughout the day can cause him great distress.
When planning your summer schedule, make sure you try to be consistent with the activities you do throughout the summer. For example, swim lessons are always on the same day at the same time. This will allow for your child to build a new schedule with new activities.
Allow for fun activities along with the learning activities. If your child has something to look forward to each day, they will be able to process each activity and participate better. I know my son he likes to know things in advance so we have our “mommy” chats just before he goes to sleep so he knows what to expect the next day. Sometimes it backfires by him being so excited about what we are doing the next day that he is awake too early. Other times it just prepares him for what happens.
Allow your child to have down time. We try to build into the schedule some down time for him to play in his room. We check on him and make sure he doesn’t do anything he isn’t supposed to, but he gets the freedom to play with his trucks or his stuffed animals. He needs the time to get perspective and regroup. Otherwise, he can be extremely cranky or demanding and our day becomes that much longer.
If you can create a summer schedule that works for your family and your special needs child, you will be able to give your child the stability and predictability that they crave. And, it will give you your sanity!