BY NATASHA CORNIN
Find inclusive or targeted activities welcoming of special needs kids, where we and our kids feel safe among others
and create enriching experiences.
Summer has arrived, and with it the challenges presented as we seek to maintain our special needs kids’ familiar
routines while taking advantage of the seasonal activities available. Whether your child has a 10-month or 12-month program may impact your priorities as it relates to the quantity and cost of the available ASD-friendly activities: but rest assured, there will be something for everyone as I outline some fun and sensory-conscious summer activities for our special needs kiddos.
A combination of sensory issues, concerns related to elopement, and the perceived lack of acceptance by others caused me to avoid crowded places, visiting friends and relatives, and even created a sense of isolation for me at times as I’ve navigated the four years following my seven-year-old son’s diagnosis at the age of three. Finding inclusive or targeted activities welcoming of special needs kids, where we and our kids feel safe among others, can definitely provide opportunities to create enriching experiences and positive memories for all involved.
The following are some of my favorite ideas that we’ve tried or come across as I research in preparation for a fun-filled summer with my boy:
1. CREATIVE PROJECTS:
If your home is like mine, you have mountains of collages and art pieces that your kids have made throughout the school year. Although we love their artistic expression, it can start to take up a lot of room. So, here’s an idea: gather the art work and scan or photograph it to create a bound book of their etchings to keep forever without turning the house into a paper factory. Some services like Shutterfly and SnapFish offer easy-to-use templates and tools to help anyone create a photo book for as little as $12; both companies’ sites currently offer promo codes for additional savings.
2. SUMMER SENSORY STATIONS
As the weather heats up it is a great opportunity to head out to a local park equipped with shaving cream, Silly Putty, paint, and/or colored water with buckets to create a sensory station to further familiarize your child with different “goopy” textures and improve tolerance to moisture. Load the table up with different elements and let your child smear it around or fill a bin with rice and dig your fingers in. Sensory play has many benefits. Learn more about sensory development here.
3. TENT TIME
Create a fantasy land all your own with your little one without ever leaving home! Pull out your blankets and drape them over your dining room chairs and line the tent with blankets to create an instant play space in your living room or backyard. Tent play can occupy your children for hours. For my son, it’s also comforting because he can retreat there if he feels overwhelmed and needs some quiet time. We got my boy a store-bought tent with a sleeping bag for his birthday and it’s become his “lil’-man cave” and he loves it! You can find tons of store-bought tents at Toys R Us or online.
4. PUMP IT UP
Pump it Up is a private indoor arena, filled with gigantic inflatable slides, bounce houses, obstacle courses and more. It is a franchise that can be found around the country. They have partnered with Autism Speaks to offer days and times designated for children with special needs in our area and this may be the case in your area, as well. It’s great for deep pressure, sensory input, imaginative play and plain old fun. They even provide a chaperone for each child, so parents can chat and catch up while the kids play, win-win. It is definitely worth finding a Pump It Up near you and inquiring about jump times for children with special needs.
5. FARM TIME /PETTING ZOO
Visiting a farm or petting zoo can be a great sensory experience for ASD children. Many farms and zoos will also allow your kids to bypass the lines to avoid potential meltdowns, if you arrange the exception ahead of time. A farm is an exceptional option because there may be a chance for the kids to ride horses or ponies, which is also calming for them and great to help them get organized due to the rhythmic trotting’s effect on the inner ear (vestibular system). A petting zoo is a great sensory experience since they get to touch and interact with the animals, up close and personal.
Whatever you choose, just know that there are endless options and so many creative ways to locate fun sights and sounds for you and your little ones to enjoy this summer.•
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Natasha Cornin is an AngelSense expert user and customer care specialist. AngelSense is a GPS and voice monitoring community platform for children with special needs.