Guest Blog: “Summer Shock” with my Special Child
Blogger Biography: I am an Army wife of ten years, a former Navy brat, a mother of two, a new convert to the SAHM world, a special needs advocate, a product reviewer, a thirty-something year old woman, and an old soul with a romantic heart and an analytical mind.
Join my journey and hopefully I can add something to yours….
Hooray, it’s summer! School’s out! No more homework! No classes. Lots of free time…
No more school? The normal routine is out the window. For most children and moms, this is not a big deal. They are able to transition from the everyday routine of school into the usually unplanned chaos that is summer. However, special needs children don’t usually fall into that category and thus we and our children are thrown into what I lovingly call “Summer Shock.”
Blondie is five and is our special child. She has ADHD, speech delays, articulation problems, adjustment disorder, SPD, and OCD tendencies. Around our house, we experienced this with Blondie almost immediately after she graduated Pre-K a few short weeks ago (although it feels I’ve aged a year since). This summer is the first that she will not be attending any type of school or child development center (CDC). For her, routine and consistency is paramount to being able to function and cope with her world. Sometimes, it doesn’t work perfectly but most days it makes the difference in her behavior, ability to regulate her own emotions without redirection, handle transitions, and adjust to situations with more ease.
During the school year, Blondie has a pretty set schedule that she understands and she is comfortable knowing what to expect every day. This, for the most part, makes it easier for us to help her through any changes or surprises that come up. After all, life isn’t scripted and we can’t expect it to go exactly as we plan or hope. Am I right moms? 😉
This past school year, we planned her schedule and organized a printed, kid friendly monthly calendar for her that we hung on her wall. I included pictures that represented each big daily activity so that she knew what to expect. She always knew if the day included school, dance class, soccer, a doctor’s appointment or therapy, etc. We also included her in discussions about what to do on the weekends and allowed her to add her own relevant “entries” in her calendar. She also has a chore/responsibility chart, a “don’t forget” list with pictures (brush your teeth, play nice, please and thank you, etc.) and a daily behavior tracker (each day gets a color, green/yellow/red, based on the overall day). Also, we have a stoplight drawing along with a cut-out picture of her. We move her picture to the corresponding color based on her current temperament. That way she understands visually if she needs to calm down or is heading for a time out, etc.
Now, I’m beginning to consider “summer” a four letter word! Having a child that depends on and thrives with schedule, routine, and limited distractions is complicated enough during the school year and throwing her into a summertime lull in those expectations is a daunting, intimidating thing (and I’m talking about for me). She, of course, is excited to be out of school, home, and having fun. I, on the other hand, know that this initial excitement will be replaced with a long list of feelings, anxieties, and difficulties with adjustments as well as transition problems. I know we are looking at some level of regression when it comes to her ability or desire to regulate her emotions and behavior without redirection. I fully know to expect more meltdowns and increased need to have things perfect and heightened sensitivity to noise/fabrics/food/temperature, etc. She definitely seems to handle all of this much better when the day is planned and when she has a normal repetitive schedule.
So, taking all of this that I know about her, her needs, what works and doesn’t work during the school year, and knowledge of what will be different this summer, I forced myself to attempt to come up with a pan of action for dealing with “Summer Shock.” Of course, I have to take into account I also have a two-year-old in the midst of “the terribles and potty training,” a military husband and all the uncertainties of his occupation/schedule, and anything else life might throw our way.
Our plan, in theory is quite simple, in action will probably be so very far from simple. We are going to continue to utilize as many of the routines, charts, and activities that Blondie is accustomed to as possible. I am still working on lists and a calendar of possible activities, day trips, and other things to do this summer. My hope is to have a not quite set in stone weekly schedule that is fairly consistent all summer and make a master calendar to hang in the girls’ playroom. Again, so they both will have a visual idea of what to expect. I have already seen a huge increase in meltdowns, and temper and sensory problems with Blondie in the short time since school let out. I have resorted to using methods that we needed a long time ago and infrequently in recent memory. Lots of making sure she keeps eye contact with me when I have to discuss a meltdown with her or an unacceptable behavior. I have seen the need to have her repeat what I tell her during these discussions and hope she “gets it” at that time. We moved her stoplight chart to a more prominent location in-house and have included our two-year-old on this method as well. Since both Ginger and Blondie are home all day, we decided to make sure as many things, routines, charts, etc. as possible include or apply to them both.
That’s the plan and I’m sticking to it! You know, at least until it stops working 😉 I hope you all have a great summer and are able to reduce the “Summer Shock” in your home.