3 Summer Transition Tips for Kids with Special Needs
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Spring has been slow to arrive and stick around this year. But the calendar says spring is here and that summer–and summer vacation for the kids–will be here before long. The change the school year routine to summer’s more laid back rhythms can be a difficult transition for kids with special needs. Guest blogger Liz Matheis is here with 3 summer transition tips to make the season more fun for everyone.
Prepare for Change:
3 Summer Transition Tips
It’s only spring time, but summer break is impending, and it’s time to think about what your child will be doing and how to handle the transition. For many parents and children, this transition causes anxiety and meltdowns over trivial things that normally wouldn’t be a tantrum trigger.
So, how do you prepare your child for the change in schedule that has been going strong for 10 out of 12 months of the year? Or better yet, how do you prepare your child for any upcoming transition, whether it be a change in who will greet your child from the bus after school, to a business trip that will leave your child with grandma for a few days? Read on!
Summer Transition Tip #1: Give Notice, But Not Too Much Notice
Prior to mommyhood, I would have said give your child plenty of notice so that he or she can process and accept. However, post-mommyhood, I know that’s not a good idea. It makes anxiety breed and multiply quickly. The questions become many and the anger becomes intense. So, I stopped giving my children notice. Instead, now I give 1-2 days notice alongside a schedule of what’s to come.
Summer Transition Tip #2: Create a Visual Schedule
By schedule I mean, create a calendar showing the upcoming transition with a countdown, especially if it’s a positively anticipated transition such as a family vacation. An upcoming pleasant trip or relative coming to visit is exciting but can also result in the experience of anxiety and agitation as there will be a change in where family members are sleeping and the daily flow of the day.
For an upcoming event where your child is nervous about the change, create a list of events, with pictures and words, that will show the series of events that will take place. For example, if grandpa is going to pick up Johnny for his occupational therapy session instead of mommy, place a picture of grandpa and Johnny on a piece of paper with the time and OT with Miss Carrie on the refrigerator.
Summer Transition Tip #3: Take a Field Trip
In anticipation of attending a camp following the end of the school year, or attending a new school, take a visit! Yes, pack a backpack with a sandwich and a drink and take a ride over to the new school or camp. Have a picnic in the field, on a bench or on the playground. Do this a few times prior to the transition to help your child begin to develop a positive association with the camp or a new school.
To take it to the next level, ask your camp director or principal if there are students and/or parents with whom you could connect and even plan for a play date prior to the start of camp or school. Your child will then have the name of at least one new friend to say hello to on the first day of camp or school. Do the same with camp counselors or teachers. Plan a visit a few days prior to the first day and stop by to say hello. Walk through the halls or fields so that the new environment is no longer all that brand new.
Change can be a frightening and unpredictable place to be when you don’t know what to expect. Using these strategies may help you and your child pass through a change with a little less anxiety and anticipation!
What Summer Transition Tips Work for Your Kids with Special Needs?
Do you have some tricks up your sleeve to the transition to summer easier at your house? What has worked in the past? What new idea are you planning to try this summer? Leave a comment below to share your ideas. Happy summer!
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By Liz Matheis
Dr. Liz Matheis is a clinical psychologist and school psychologist in Parsippany, NJ. She offers support, assessments, and advocacy for children who are managing Autism Spectrum Disorders, ADHD, learning disabilities, and behavioral difficulties, as well as their families. She is also a contributor to several popular magazines. Visit www.psychedconsult.com for more information.
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