I was speaking to a family member whose daughter just finished Kindergarten. This was her first year in a traditional school setting and she struggled a lot emotionally in the beginning. A team was created at school and they came up with a plan to help this student. The plan included a lot of structure. The young girl improved and was successful. Now that school is out for the summer the structure of the school day is gone and some of the issues have returned.
This scenario is true for a lot of children with disabilities. They spend all day ever day in school in a schedule that is structured to address their needs. Unless they go to another program this structure disappears in the summer. Some parents believe that when a child has an extended school year program that the same structure is present. However, this is far from the truth. Often, the extended school year program is only for six weeks at the most for two to three hours a day for up to four days a week. Then, the day is out and they go home to whatever finds them.
Summer is fun and there should definitely be time for a lot of creative play. Playing does not have to be unstructured. I agree that play should be spontaneous but the rest of the child’s day does not need to be. Here are some tips to keep a summer day structured.
1. Have them wake up and go to bed at the same time every day.
2. Have meals at the same time every day when possible.
3. Make them a visual schedule of their day. This is often used as a tool and school and this will help them practice this skill.
4. Consider chores they can do to help you out around the house and teach them independent living skills at the same time. Have them do them at the same time during the day or the week.
Structure and schedule during the summer may make the transition back to school easier. Happy summer!