For most of us that blank sheet of school Summer break time leads to a mixture of relief that our children are ours exclusively for the next few weeks, excitement at all the memory-making to be done, and not a little anxiety as to how we are going to fill each day, survive the meltdowns or find enough energy, patience and/or affordable childcare.
I certainly don't have all the answers, but here are a few ideas you might like to try.
|Summer holiday solutions for SEN families|
- Have a clear out of unloved toys and give them to charity. You could even do a toy or book swap with friends. We also enjoy sifting through the wardrobe to find what doesn't fit any longer, and gifting it away.
- Stock up on a few inexpensive bits and pieces such as craft materials, activity and story books and a couple of bargain bucket DVDs so they have something new to dip into and catch their attention on rainy days.
- Buy healthy snacks to take on days out or enjoy in the garden. You'll save money this way too. Fruit bars, malt loaf, homemade cake and flapjack, healthy crisps and dried fruit. A few hard boiled eggs in the fridge make good quick energy boosts and packs of fruity joghurt tubes freeze easily to make healthy ice pops. You can make your own lollies with juice or frozen yoghurt. Baking ingredients are handy to have in for rainy afternoons in the kitchen making muffins.
|Have a selection of healthy drinks and snacks on hand|
- Put a box or basket by the front door with hats, sunglasses, suncream, rainmacs, flip flops and a hairbrush and hair bands/clips or whatever your family needs each time you go out. That way you aren't looking for these essentials every time you leave the house.
|Always have your hat and sunglasses ready|
- Brainstorm and plan together The girls and I sat together one morning and made lists of the things we'd all like to do over the summer. Rainy Day/Sunny Day activities, friends to catch up with. This takes the thinking out of each day. Use pictures cut from leaflets and let your child point to what they'd like to do. Choice-making is so important for every child, whatever their abilities.
- Sign up to the National Trust 50 Things to do Before you're 11 3/4 It's a simply fabulous online scrapbook of outdoor activities that you tick off and fill in when you have done them and most are free or very inexpensive to do. There is so much choice and many of the activities will be wonderfully nostalgic for you too, such a grass blade trumpeting!
- Your Local Council and/or charity and support group might run activities for youngsters with disabilities and their siblings See what you can sign up for. There are many events from accessible sports, to young carers events to autism-friendly cinema screenings by region on their website.
- If you're thinking of booking a holiday try our SEN Travel Tips and Best SEND Resorts and Tour Operators articles in the Telegraph for ideas.
- Sign up to the Summer Reading Challenge at your local library. You can track your progress online as you read 6 books throughout the holidays, and they have quizzes and competitions too.
|Have you read I Love You Natty yet?|
- Accessible Cycling can be so much fun for all the family. There are so many ways to get on wheels these days, with accessible clubs and all manner of trikes and tandems and so on. See what's available in your local area.
- Try to make time with each child individually each week This can be hard to arrange but perhaps a partner can do different activities with other children, or maybe you could arrange babysitting swaps with a friend. It pays dividends, especially for siblings of children with disabilities who often feel left out.
- Keep the learning skills ticking over Whilst it's important to have time away from school work and allow your children free time to play as they choose, I find 6 weeks is a very long time for Natty to recall what she had been learning in the previous term. I try to build reading, writing and number work into the week in a fun way somehow so that she maintains what she has worked so hard to learn.
|Make learning fun|
- Make a scrapbook of your Summer You can simply stick in photos or leaflets and postcards as a visual reminder and a way for you child to show school staff what they have done over the summer when they return to school in September. A talking book is a great way of recording a sentence to accompany a picture on each page.
- Get ready for the new school term. You might want to make a visual timetable to make your morning routine easier or refer to our list of resources and ideas Tips and Contacts for School Pupils with Down's Syndrome. We love worksheets from Twinkl too.
|Making a visual timetable can help with morning routines|
- Make time for yourself, even if it's a soak in the tub with some new bubble bath or a walk around the block when the children are alseep if you have someone at home. I relish my silent sanity-boosting half hour in the garden tending my veggies at the tail end of each day. Respite is vital if you are to keep going.
- Remember to have fun, try something new, allow your child choices, unstructured time, time with chosen friends and a few calculated risks here and there. I felt physically sick when Natty came bouncing down the bumpy slide at a fair yesterday, but I'm so glad I let her do it.