Summer is here and while it brings sun and fun, it can also bring struggles.
Many people we have been speaking with over the past month are feeling a bit anxious about the various transitions their child and family will face, as school comes to an end. How will the summer camp work out? Should I increase or decrease therapy hours? Should I put my child in to a summer play-scheme? Should I hire a special needs babysitter?
Over July and August we will be addressing all of these issues and we encourage you to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions, advice and success stories.
Encouraging outdoor play
The sun is shining and you can finally get outside into your back garden and out to the park to play, but if you have a child with an additional need this time can be daunting. The following recommendations are to help you encourage your child to play with items and equipment at the park, as well as interact with other children.
Using toys and playground equipment
- Take your child to the park when it is quiet. As your child becomes more comfortable, you can begin taking them at busier times.
- Prepare them. Take photos of the playground equipment and show them to your child when you are at home. You could even make a little book about how you go to the park and what you do while you are there. Ensure these are REAL photos of actual times you have been to the park and had fun. This is not a social story.
- Model. Show them how to use the equipment and toys. Go down the slide, climb the climber and climbing frame and dig in the sand. Show your child exactly how they can use all of the items at the park. As they get more comfortable, you can decrease your involvement.
- You may like to pair some specific playground equipment with reinforcement.
- Choose your park carefully. Start with smaller parks that only have a few items to play on. As your child gains confidence in using all of the equipment at a smaller park, you can start going to bigger and bigger play areas.
- Spend a few minutes watching what the other children are doing. Some children spend a bit of time alone, some come in and out of play with children they do not know, some only play with children they know. This will help you keep your expectations realistic.
- Bring items to share. Do not choose items your child really likes, but choose neutral items that you can leave out to encourage other children to come and interact with you and your child. Having items to play with makes social interaction easier.
- Help. If you child looks like they want to interact, go and help them be successful. Model how they could get involved, or prompt them with the language they need to speak with the other child. If your child can’t mand or tact yet, be his or her voice for them. Remember – keep it simple!
- Keep your visits short and sweet. You want to end on a high when your child is still motivated.