10 Summer Activities for Kids with Disabilities
1. Create a Social Story.
Social Stories are a helpful way to depict what activities and appropriate responses your son or daughter MIGHT expect in an upcoming situation, like your summer break. The title of your summer Social Story could be A look at ________’s Summer Vacation. This social story could talk about your plans for what your child MIGHT experience this summer: visits to the library or park, spending time with a tutor or babysitter, books they MIGHT read, a visit to camp, and more. You could even make a Social Story for individual events as well as the entire summer. Read more about creating a preview of your summer vacation and the importance of using words like “maybe” and “probably”, in this blog post.
2. Create a daily, visual schedule.
Just like a vacation away from home can bring uncomfortable routine changes for some, your son or daughter might be distressed by the changes in routine summer brings. Help your child know what their daily activities are with a picture schedule, like this one from Shannon Des Roches Rosa in “Autism, Parenting, and Summer: Keeping Busy”. (You can find photos for daily activities at Do2Learn.) The schedule can include time for academics, work/job, exercise, fun and more.
3. Maintain academics…and make it fun!
This is a realistic and important goal. You may not necessarily be able to move your children further ahead academically, but maintaining academic skills is a valid goal. Consider having a reading, math, writing, and/or art day, where you review skills learned during the year. Find fun ways to incorporate these skills into your summer by visiting museums, journaling, participating in your local library’s summer reading program and more. Talk with your child’s teacher to discuss material you should work on over the summer and older students or community members who might be a good tutor, if that’s appropriate. Find more resources for summer learning from Edutopia at this link.
4. Schedule play dates.
Schedule an outing with your child’s Circle of Friends or classmates. Using a Social Story, work with your child beforehand on what activities they MIGHT expect, appropriate social skills, and what to do if they get frustrated.
5. Plan family activities.
Allow your child to pick some special family activities they would like to do this summer – whether that’s a picnic, family vacation, or video game night. Allowing your child to choose and help plan a family activity empowers them to own their decision. If you’re looking for family-friendly events that are intentional about including persons with disabilities, look into Wilderness Inquiry or movie theaters with a sensory friendly film in your area. Whatever activity you choose, be sure to include it in your picture schedule!
6. Do service projects around your child’s strengths.
Give to others this summer by participating in or starting a service project in your neighborhood, within your church, or in your broader community. What strengths and interests does your son or daughter possess that could benefit the community? Maybe they’re great at planting seeds, cleaning windows, organizing library books or playing with animals. Help them utilize their strengths to give back to the community. Explain to your child what service is and why it’s important to help others.
What activities does your child enjoy? How can you make this into something active? Brainstorm with your child what can be done to exercise and why this is important. If they enjoy videogames, incorporate the Wii Fit into their schedule. If they like art, have them draw hopscotch and then play it with them. If they enjoy athletics, encourage them to join a summer sports league or train for a race. Plan an exercise period each day…and plan as many as needed!
8. Give your summer a theme…or two…or three.
There are so many themes you could choose from, whether that’s a certain country (perhaps Brazil for the FIFA World Cup), a holiday (celebrate Flag Day on June 14 through Independence Day on July 4 with a patriotic theme), a favorite school subject (summer is the perfect time to study science – there’s so many bugs and plants to learn about!) or something else your family enjoys. Plan your meals, activities, learning, and art projects/exploration around your chosen theme.
9. Make meals together.
Invite your child to help plan and prepare meals – maybe one meal per week. Allow them to assist with the shopping by helping create the shopping list, crossing off the items at the grocery store, adding up the items, etc. You can even tie your meals in with your summer theme(s).
10. Play games, games, and more games!
Whether it’s a board, card, or a yard activity, games are a great way to practice social skills, as well as how to follow rules, be a gracious winner, be cooperative, and lose. Looking for game ideas? Visit Marbles – The Brain Store for games, software, puzzles, books and more that develop critical thinking, memory, coordination, visual perception and word skills. Most importantly, have fun!
Pam Maat is a teacher consultant at All Belong and the director of educational support services at Holland Christian Schools. She is a trained All Kinds of Minds facilitator, and a graduate of Grand Valley State University and Calvin College.
Katie Barkley is the marketing communications manager at All Belong.