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children with special needs

Go from school to summer with ease!

Summer break, for students, is often a beacon of freedom from homework, alarm clocks, bus routes and more – and I know many adults who look forward to a respite from those things, too! Washington State has so many beautiful places to explore with children of all ages, and summer can be an opportunity to create wonderful memories of experiencing the natural world…and maybe a water park or two.
But for many families, summer also represents a vast unknown: where will my child go while I am at work? How will we supplement the free/reduced lunch we rely on? What learning will be lost during those months of unstructured time?

While some of those questions can be answered with a robust network of summer programming, such as Boys and Girls Clubs, YMCA, and Summer Meals, there are other gaps in resources that remain challenging. I have experienced the summer gap with both joy and trepidation as the parent of children who have special health care needs. In Washington State, there are hundreds of thousands of children with disabilities receiving support services through our public schools. For many, school is the primary place to access important resources such as speech therapy, occupational or physical therapy, social skills groups, and behavior plans. So what are some things families can do during those summer months?

These resources provide more information about summer opportunities for young people with disabilities or special health needs:

An annual directory of summer camps in Washington State is available in both digital and print versions. If you access it online, you can search for camps by location, time frame, special needs considerations, and more.

Extended School Year, or ESY, is the continuation of some special education services through the summer based on a student’s IEP.

For ADA-accessible trails, the Washington Trails Association has a wealth of information about locations throughout the state for your next family trip.

Lifespan Respite of Washington offers information and resources for caregivers seeking respite options.

One thing that I have found helpful for my family is to create personalized social stories that feature pictures of us and the activities we anticipate happening over the summer. The story can be a daily routine or a special event. Read more about social stories.

For my family, it feels like we have only just gotten the hang of establishing a somewhat predictable summer routine – and my kids are nearly teenagers! If I could give myself one piece of advice back when they were little, I would say to plan for what you can, count on a few surprises, and make sure to enjoy it in the moment. I often hear from other parents how pressured we feel to “maximize opportunities” for our children. While supporting growth and development is important, I think it is also okay (and necessary) to allow for some unstructured time – even boredom!

Have a happy and healthy summer – only 84 more days to go!

Learn more about Jen’s role as a Family Support Coordinator.

Tags: ADA   children with special needs   summer   summer meals   

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