While school holidays can pose a challenge to most families, for special needs families, they can be especially tough. It’s hard to balance the needs of the whole family while meeting the needs of your special needs child.

It’s even more difficult to do this for two weeks with no break and no respite. So, it’s no surprise some special needs parents view school holidays with dread and trepidation. However, there are strategies special needs parents can use to survive, and even enjoy, school holidays.


Develop a holiday routine

I know it’s wonderful to take a break from routine during holidays, but routine provides structure, a sense of control and a source of comfort for many special needs kids. Creating a holiday routine helps your kids know what to expect each day, so they feel less anxious. A flexible holiday routine (it doesn’t have to be strict) is a practical way to maintain structure. Plus, it will also make it easier to get back into a normal routine when school returns.



Example of a flexible holiday routine © Kirsty Russell


 Utilize visuals and social stories

Visuals (charts and calendars) and social stories (describing a new experience) are a great way to introduce new activities. Try to anticipate and answer all the questions your child may have (focus on the why, when, where, what, how and who questions). Concentrating on the positives and emphasizing the activities that will spark their interest, will also lessen their anxiety and encourage them to have a go.



Information for a holiday social story © Kirsty Russell


Plan for down time

While away, you may be tempted to fill your days with activities to keep the boredom at bay. But, don’t forget holidays can be stressful for everyone and you need to plan for down time to rest and recharge. When on holidays at home, it pays to build quiet time into your holiday schedule too. Have a movie afternoon together. Play some games. Read some books. Encourage everyone to have some alone time in their rooms.


Find small pockets of time for yourself

This might seem an impossible dream but, even if you don’t think it’s possible, you’re bound to snatch some time from somewhere. I’m talking about a half hour of peace while the kids are occupied with their devices. It could be a 15-minute wander around the backyard. It could even be the 5 minutes you soak up in the shower before facing the day. Be proactive and find small pockets of time so you get time out.


Approach school holidays with positivity

If you greet school holidays with dread, you’ll reap what you sow. You’ll be less likely to make plans, and everyone will pick up on your negativity. However, if you approach the holidays with positivity and you make plans to have fun, the holidays will more likely be a success. So, approach the holidays with positive thoughts. Make plans. Be prepared. Plan to enjoy yourself. It will be good!


Image Photo by Edward Cisneros on Unsplash


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