Surviving Summer

By Gina Badalaty

Last summer was the worst.  I was cooped up at home with an autistic 4 year old and a high energy 7-year old.  It was the first year that my older daughter did not have any kind of summer school activity since she was three, and my little one was going through a growth spurt that made her grumpy and hard to control. I found myself praying for the return of school.


This year while we await summer camp acceptance letters and extended school year plans, I’ve decided to do start planning now to make the summer enjoyable.  Here are the tips and tricks I’ll be using to survive it:


  • Get out of the house. I know that this is not always doable but if you can at least get to the yard or front stoop and keep your child safe from wandering, go for it. This year we have invested in a closed off fence and will finally be able to use our backyard without worry.
  • Get wet. Summer is for swimming, whether it’s a sprinkler, a kiddie pool, or just filling up the tub.  You can even set up a plastic water table with sand and toys to keep the little ones’ hands busy.
  • Make it crazy fun indoors. Even if you can go out, there are going to be days that are too hot or rainy to do so. That’s the time to let loose. When you have kids with special needs, you should have at least one room that you don’t care what they do with. Buy chalkboard paint and turn a wall into a blackboard.  Bring out all the pillows and make a fort.  Throw a blanket over a coffee table and camp out in your living room.  Enlist the kids to help with the easy parts cooking and gardening. Have crafts, ingredients, and other interesting play items on hand before summer.
  • If your school has extended school year, take it. One of the big problems for kids with learning disabilities is the toll that being off for the summer takes on their learning.  Find out now if your school offers extended school year and if your child qualifies for it.
  • Create a classroom at home. Make sure that your child reviews the concepts they learned throughout the school year such as counting, alphabet, and vocabulary.  You can reward them with TV, computer, or video game time for a half an hour of time spent studying.  Check out homeschooling websites for creative learning ideas and curriculum planning resources to help you set up study sessions at home.
  • Find a special needs camp. Contact your local ARC (for general learning disabilities) or your local autism resource group to find a camp or summer activities that cater to or will accept kids with disabilities. Some of these are free of charge.
  • Find special needs activities. My daughter just got accepted into speech therapy to fill our Friday mornings. In the past, we’ve frequently used our autism grant for in-home summer time music therapy.  I’ve also learned that with a few minutes’ drive of my home, there is a dance studio, a horse stable, and a martial arts center that provide programs for special needs kids. These classes are becoming more common so call and ask your local providers.
  • Enlist help. Seek help from trusted friends and family, your faith, support or moms groups, and neighbors. Coordinate play dates or babysitting exchanges, or look into hiring a professional sitter.  There are services, such as, that provide and screen child care providers for a small fee, if you can afford it.


Start planning now to manage summer break for the kids.  What do you do to survive the summer? How do you help your kids remember what they’ve learned? Share your tips in our comments.

Gina BadalatyGina Badalaty is happily married, lives north of Philly and is mom to two special needs girls. She works from home as a web designer, mommy blogger, blogging trainer, and aspiring novelist. Since surviving a stroke at age 33, she counts every day as a blessing and an adventure. She is passionate about finding and telling compelling stories that touch the spirits of women everywhere. You can visit her at

Posted in Kids with Special Needs on April 22nd, 2011 | Permalink | Comments »
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