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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Time for Summer Planning

From the Autism Consortium

By Bernadette Murphy Bentley, MPA
February 11, 2015

One great way to get through a frigid winter is to make plans for your child for his/her summer break. Although it might seem early, spots in many camps and programs are already filling, so now is the perfect time to discover the opportunities that are out there. 

The National Autism Association recently reported that children with ASDs living in parts of the U.S. that experience greater seasonal variations--like the Northeast--are at greater risk in the summer months than children living in other areas.

Read an article from the Autism Consortium for suggestions on how to keep your child safe in the summer and all year long.

Extended School Year (ESY) Considerations

Most districts announce their general programming plans for the summer around now (check with your special education director and PAC for specifics). However, ESY decisions are made on an individual basis in the IEP meeting. If your child received ESY services last year, that might give you an indication of what he/she will get this summer, although prior ESY services are no guarantee of future ESY programming.

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has a very helpful Question & Answer Guide about ESY for parents.

Summer Camps and Recreation

Would you like FREE individualized assistance in choosing the right camp for your child? Summer Camp & Trip Resources has a specialist who focuses on therapeutic camps for children ages 8-18 that work on social skills, self-esteem, peer-relationship building, and life skills in an organized, positive environment.

Contact their special needs camp expert at Ira@summercampsandtrips.com.

In their terrific online guide Summer Fun, the Federation for Children with Special Needs (FCSN) outlines the steps parents should take when deciding on summer programming for their children, and also includes a list of camps by disability category.

For additional camps, SpedChildMass has a listing of special needs programs across the state. Another terrific information source is “Summer Programs Guide: Free and Low-Cost Summer Activities for Kids in Massachusetts.” Although not disability-specific, it does contain links to special needs programming websites. It also includes detailed information on the wide range of summer programs for families living in the city of Boston.

Massachusetts offers a variety of fun adaptive sports and excellent recreation programs state-wide for people with special needs. Many local YMCAs also have instructors trained to assist those with special needs and Integration Coordinators to ensure that all members have access to programming.

Check your local Y to see what they have planned for the summer months.

Summer Travel

The Charles River Center is once again offering its unique and wonderful FREE program Wings for Autism if your family will be traveling by plane this summer.

Wings for Autism is a rehearsal at Logan Airport to alleviate some of the stress involved in taking an airline vacation with a child with autism. Parents and their children with ASDs will practice entering the airport, getting boarding passes, going through security, and actually boarding a plane!

If you plan on visiting any national parks, historic sites, or recreation areas over the summer, apply for an Access Pass for your child with a disability that allows your family free entrance and discounted fees. You can visit some sites at no cost.

For ideas on how to improve your travel experiences, Autism Speaks has an entire page devoted to Traveling Tips for Individuals with Autism including Ten Strategies for Traveling with a Child with Autism, written by a mom who shares her experiences of successful travel adventures with her young child. It can also be helpful for you to provide a social story to your child about your summer plans.

Plan Early!

Planning early for the months when your child is out of school can help make for a successful and fun experience for your entire family. Plus, it gives everyone something to look forward to over the long, cold months to come!

For more information, check out last year’s article on Summer Fun for your Child and Family.

Bernadette Murphy Bentley, MPA, is the Editorial Director of Autism E-News and the Autism Resource Specialist at Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center.

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