This simple word conjures up a whole host of memories and images for children and adults alike. The lazy hours, lounging poolside, and weeks spent at summer camp are a rite of passage for today’s modern children when the weather turns balmy. These school free days are often anticipated by children everywhere, including our children with special needs.
Unfortunately, traditional summer activities can expose our sons and daughters to a variety of dangers ranging anywhere from sunburn to getting separated at a crowded amusement park. These dangers are often magnified for parents of children with special needs, because our kids often have limited vocabularies, mobility, or health risks that leave them more vulnerable to heat, crowds, and group settings. Thankfully, with a little planning and foresight, our summers don’t have to turn into bummers.
To prevent a child’s summer from getting hosed, consider the following safety tips for our special needs children:
Hydrate. It’s easy for little bodies to become dehydrated in the heat. To prevent sickness or exhaustion, ensure children drink adequate amounts of water.
Wear sunscreen and protective clothing to ward off the sun’s damaging rays. Children who have special needs might prefer lighter lotions, sprays, or lightweight UPF clothing with a wide brimmed hat. Find what works for your child.
Pack snacks for days spent at the park, by the poolside, or while vacationing. Our kids often require special diets or feeding times. Even though many attractions offer concession stands, the food choices are loaded with allergens or unhealthy choices. Instead of waiting in line for that $10 hotdog, bring along favorite healthy choices to ward off hunger pangs and stay on schedule.
Consider heading to theme parks, pools, or busy tourist areas during off peak hours. By choosing to visit during the week or on a weekend after Labor Day, you will bypass lines and excess waiting. A less stressful environment can make the day more enjoyable for everyone.
At the pool, go along to keep an extra set of eyes on your child. As added protection, let the lifeguards know that your child has special needs. Sitting poolside allows us to watch our children, witness how they interact with peers, and provide special bonding time.
If you are out for a day in the park or travelling, consider bringing along soothing toys, music, headphones, and videos. The upheaval of travel or a change in schedule can cause many children to become overstimulated and stressed. By offering our kids comforting and familiar objects, we can salvage the moment and still enjoy the day.
Plan ahead and scout handicap accessibility to make day excursions, outdoor visits, and amusement parks more enjoyable for everyone. Take a few moments to look online, read reviews, or call ahead. A few proactive measures can help you find the best parking spots, routes for taking in the sights, rest areas, and more!
Consider purchasing bracelets that has your contact information (or write with permanent ink on a child’s arm) in case your child gets separated from you. We always plan on keeping our kids within a fingertip’s length, but things do happen. These measures will help our children find us if needed.
Use the buddy system. Whether playing at the park or attending summer camp, find a friend or sibling to tag along. An extra set of eyes and pair of hands can alert us early if there is a problem or concern.
Snap and save a photo a child’s prescription label in case it gets lost or needs refilled while away from home. This can be extremely valuable if you are travelling or the child is at summer camp. For added protection, we should pack medications in our carry on bags or purses in case luggage gets lost.
Carry a lightweight blanket while traveling. It might feel strange toting a blanket in the heat of summer, but this simple piece of cloth can help warm kids in cool movie theaters, block sunshine in moving cars, comfort during long flights, or provide makeshift pillows for resting during a layover.
Locate a summer camp that embraces children with special needs. Summer camps come in all shapes and sizes, just like our children. Consider choosing a camp that is geared towards a child’s needs so they can enjoy the timeless friendships, memories, and experiences that only come from time spent outdoors gathered around a campfire.
What summer safety tips do you have for children with special needs?
Born and raised in Austin, TX, Hilary Smith is a free-lance journalist whose love of gadgets, technology and business has no bounds. After becoming a parent she now enjoys writing about family and parenting related topics.