How parents of special needs children can plan ahead for school breaks

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School breaks are things that kids tend to look forward to throughout the school year, be it winter break, spring break, or summer break. Whether it's a week off from school, or several months, these times of the year can be especially trying for parents, especially when there is a special needs child living in the home. Not to fret, we have some wonderful tips to help you better manage your child's time off from school in a way that is beneficial for the family and will not leave you feeling like you need a break once it is all said and done. 

Use day planners and timelines

Changing up the daily routine for a person with ASD or other special needs can feel very scary. In an effort to create a sense of normalcy and a routine, it can help to plan out the timeline of the break whether it's a short or a long break. This can be done with a visual aid, such as a large editable calendar. Add pictures of the people and places you plan to visit to mentally prepare your child for what is ahead, and try to keep things as consistent as possible. An example of this would be scheduling play dates for the same day each week, and visits during the same time of the day (evening or afternoon). On the same note, a planning tool for leisure time can also be helpful. If you child isn't used to the abundance of free time that he/she will have during the break, a free-time planner that allows your child to do activities in one hour blocks will keep him/her from engaging in unhealthy habits such as playing video games all day. 

Make any necessary adjustments to your plans ahead of time

There are a variety of activities that children will want to engage in during a school break that may be difficult for your special needs child. Making and planning for minor adjustments that will make these activities more enjoyable is key. For example, you may want to plan fun alternatives to traditional activities that will help make them more enjoyable for your child, and modify any games or activities that will be engaged in so that they are easier for your child to engage in with peers and other family members. 

Prepare your child mentally for outings

Surprises and the fear of the unknown can trigger anxiety and stress for a child with special needs. To help combat this, prepare your child for the outing well in advance. You may want to walk your child through what to expect, what you will do, and where you will go. You can use visual aids such as photos and videos to help the child visualize where he/she is going to be and help avoid any unnecessary surprises. If you're on vacation and will be eating out a lot, you may want to plan picnics to help avoid stressful situations. 

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Plan ahead before going out

Make life easier by planning ahead for things like medication transportation while you are out and about. You may want to have a pre-packed bag for being on the go (with a change of clothes, plastic tablecloth for accidents, etc.), and some of your child's favorite toys, electronics, snacks, and books in the event that he/she becomes stressed or bored and wants something of comfort and leisure. You may also want to dress your child in bright colored clothing when going out so that you can keep your eyes on him/her at all times. 

Winter, spring, and summer breaks don't have to be a time of dread for you and your family. With a bit of preparation and thinking ahead, you can make sure breaks from school are quality family times filled with fun for all. You deserve to experience the best that life has to offer for you and your loved ones. If you'd like a bit more support during these times off school, you may want to check out some of the services Big Sky Therapy provides. We offer ABA Therapy, parent-child bond strengthening classes, and mental health therapeutic interventions for your child and family. Feel free to contact us to receive more information or be placed on our waiting list. 

Jayna Nickert