While school holidays are a welcome break from the busyness of school routines, there is never a break from being a parent. If you have a child with disability, there may be additional challenges that need to be considered to ensure the summer break goes as smoothly as possible.
The following tips are aimed at helping you and your child have fun, learn and connect over the coming holiday period.
1. Plan to keep it simple
School holidays don’t have to be complicated and you don’t have to spend a lot of money. Be guided by the interests and needs of your child and use this time to connect and have fun together. Children enjoy doing simple things together like arts and craft, playing board games or watching a favourite show together. Make sure you schedule in some down-time too.
2. The best things in life are free (and accessible!)
Picnics, all abilities playgrounds (especially fun if they have water play areas too), activities at the local library and art galleries are generally low cost outings that children enjoy.
Some disability service providers offer school holiday programs that are accessible, affordable (you can even pay with your NDIS budget) and can engage your child during the day with specialised programs run by experienced staff. You can also get information about inclusive and accessible day and overnight camps from NSW Sport and Recreation.
3. Routines are still important
Following the same morning routine that your child has when getting ready for school can help when preparing your child for the day’s activity. Too much change can be overwhelming and for some children a complete change in routine can throw everybody’s day out. Planning ahead by creating a calendar of activities can relieve everyone’s anxiety about what’s happening the next day and over the course of the break.
4. An opportunity to teach new skills
Activities at home can provide skill building opportunities. Cooking is a particularly fun and interactive activity which can help your child learn important life skills. It doesn’t have to be complicated and there are also some great easy read cookbooks available in print and online so you don’t even have to come up with the recipes!
5. Ask for help
Everyone needs support so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Planning ahead could also mean reaching out to trusted family, friends and neighbours who might be able to assist if needed, even with simple things like watching the kids while you pop to the shop.
6. Accept that things may not always go to plan
Everyone has days where things don’t go to plan. Things can change at the last minute due to illness, accidents or your child just isn’t him or herself on the day. Transitions between activities can sometimes take longer and be more stressful for a child with disability and this too could impact on what was planned. At the time, it may feel very stressful when things don’t go to plan, but these times can provide useful learnings about what doesn’t work well to help with future planning.
7. Don’t forget self-care
It’s important to take time out for yourself. This means different things to different people, so choose what’s right for you. It might be taking the dog for a walk, having a hot bath or just putting your feet up with a cuppa. It may help to factor your self-care time into your calendar of activities to further ensure that it actually happens. If you are happy and relaxed, chances are your kids will be too.
8. Be organised
It might be hard to do things like your groceries when the kids are at home, so you might want to take advantage of online grocery shopping. If you do need to go out the shops with your kids, take a list so you can get in and out as quickly as possible. Being organised is about planning in advance, even if it’s the afternoon before.
9. NDIS Support
If your child has an NDIS plan there may be funds available to provide some extra supports over the holiday period. This could be in the form of respite (now known as short-term accommodation and assistance), additional support in home or to access the community. If you are not sure what funds are available to you or what you can purchase, you can contact your Support Coordinator or your Local Area Coordinator (LAC).
10. Keep doing what works
You know your child best and what works for your family so keep doing it. If this means that the housework doesn’t get done as often or your kids need to spend some more time watching TV, then that’s okay. The idea is not only to survive the holidays but also to have some quality time with the whole family.