A Parent’s Perspective: The Transition from School to Summer

My beautiful Elizbeth is 26 years old, soon to be 27.  

We have been navigating the therapy world for over 25 years and truthfully, we are still making sure that she continues a path of growth with the help of either therapists or just really great, talented people who are joining us on the journey now.

But one thing is a constant and that is knowing how to best navigate this world AND knowing how to navigate this world successfully amidst the background of other changes in other parts of either your world, as the parent/caregiver, their world, or your family’s world.

Because the therapies and supports must find their place as life changes and the calendar flips.

One of the biggest changes, in my opinion, is the transition between the school year and summer.  The change between the delicious and predictable routine of school to unscheduled and unpredictable days of summer.

Sure, in the Hallmark movies summer is just a sweet, simple flow of relaxing fun, super green grass, extra bright blue skies and ahhhh, nothing to do.

Ok, now back to reality. Summer for those who have special needs in their life is a bit different from reality.  Not bad, just different.  And trust me, fun was there for us in the summer but so was therapy and follow up work at home.

So just how do you navigate therapies and the move to summer?

I think taking time to talk to the school, teachers and therapists.  

Either physically, or by email and see what they think should be worked on over the summer.  I know that some of this is covered in the IEP and the IEP meeting, but for this, I am talking about an easy conversation or email thread.

After all, these professionals have seen your child over the years and can see the true struggles or areas that could be a good place to focus.   

Then share this information with your private therapists if you have one.  This keeps everyone on the same working page.

And something that many may not think about is making sure that any changes on the IEP need to be sent to any and all who work with your child.  Again, it keeps everyone on the same page instantly.

Plan your child’s therapies and get them on the schedule as soon as possible!

Nothing said happy to me like knowing that everything was as organized as was possible.  If you wait too long, the schedules fill up and you may find yourself at speech therapy at 6:00pm and if your child hits the sheets at 8:00, well you can imagine that things might not go as swimmingly as you would wish.

Make a list of what YOU want to work on with the extra time in the summer:

I know that this was, for me, the time to work on some things that I really wanted to put some attention to. Maybe it was brushing her teeth better or doing more oral motor work.  NOW was the time to do this. Because there really is more time

After this, make a gentle schedule of how you are going to do these things.  

Along with the stricter schedule of therapies and treatments.   

Find those nooks and crannies to tuck in some “work”. For example, Maybe cutting isn’t going so well for your child, maybe ask their help as you cut coupons or “pretty pictures” from a magazine.

Or is saying the days of the week are a bit of work for your child, you can add this to your list of things to do in the car when you do errands. 

Remember, car rides, walks and time outside provide great opportunities to sneak in “work” You will be surprised at how work can be accomplished before it feels like work to your child.

Keep a record of success and struggles.

Trust me, you will be happy you did this because all the ups and downs of the summer work will escape you when you get ready for the fall.  You will think you will remember things but trust me, you won’t.  And that is ok, so write it down.

Now how do you begin the back-to-school prep?

In mid-summer, it is not too early to plan for back to school, believe it or not.

Get those notes I told you about.

Review them.

Ask your therapists from summer to give you their reports.

Then use them to write a letter about your child- what they like and don’t like, what they did well this summer, what they struggled with. What they did was new!  Let the letter speak for your child.  It gets the new educators to better understand just WHO your child is right away.

Review the IEP.

Email the letter and the IEP to those who will be WITH and working WITH your child.  This is how to ensure that any and all people who will cross the path of your child will know all about them.  I learned this the hard way as one elementary school gym teacher stopped me one morning at a drop off to loudly tell me how “bad” Elizabeth was acting in class.  “She doesn’t DO anything, she just stands there.”  

Yep, that happened, and it was then, I knew that Elizabeth’s IEP should have been sent to everyone but I then knew that from that moment on, it WOULD.

Touch base with the school therapists.

This ensures that the school therapist will start with current goals, not ones from last spring.

I think my best advice for navigating therapies is to get into a sort of rhythm.  Certain months mean you do certain things.  This way you don’t forget things and you get to breathe as you know that when the calendar flips you will know what that month should entail.

And, to give yourself grace for the marathon you are in.

 It is hard work to do this, to stay on top of it all.  And if you make a mistake, find the gift in it, and know you did your best at the time.

I am with you on the journey.

See you next month,


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