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How I Get through Summer Vacation with my Special Needs Kids without Going Nuts


By Lisa Byrom Brown, Customer Care Specialist at AngelSense and Mother of Anthony and Daniel, eight-year-old twins with ASD

AngelSense, a GPS & voice monitoring solution designed for children with special needs.

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School is out, and even summer school is ending soon. In our case that will mean three weeks’ worth of time to fill.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love spending time with my eight-year-old twins, but what are we going to do for THREE WHOLE WEEKS??  Going on a family vacation isn’t an option for us because of how crowded and busy everything is. It’s just too overstimulating for the boys.

Let me give you an idea of what our family is like. There’s me — Mom, Anthony and Daniel, two eight-year-old boys with ASD and Steve, wonderful Dad and supportive husband. The boys are lower functioning and non-verbal. They’re always on the move, won’t sit down for a minute, and need constant attention unless they have an iPad/iPod in hand to keep them busy for a while.

The whole family (1)   Family in Pool (1)

It’s quite interesting what becomes normal in an autism home. For us it’s water running in the sink while one boy plays in it. The other dumping food on the floor so the vacuum cleaner obsession can be quelled. Both in different rooms so you have to decide which fire to put out first. Having to listen to the kids replay a specific section of their favorite ‘Veggitale’ movie over and over until we can’t bear to hear it any longer.

During summer vacation, with no routines and schedules to rely on, everything gets even that much more hectic. So I wanted to share what worked for me over the last couple summers in the constant battle to keep my kids occupied, and what I hope to do with them this summer.

Routine. Routine. Routine.

Every summer I try my hardest to create a basic routine for us. Nothing fancy. Just a few recurring activities throughout the week and each day that my boys can look forward to. The activities that are scheduled ahead of time serve as ‘anchors’ in our week or day and then all I have left to do is to fill the time around them. For example: Monday through Thursday we have 2-3 hours of ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis). This summer we have swimming lessons once a week and I’m looking into signing up for Equine Therapy, which I’ve heard great things about. Also, there is a movie theater in our neighborhood that has showings for special needs kids – they keep the lights on, lower the volume, etc.

When we go on more serious outings to our local parks or zoo, as a safety precaution, I always have somebody come with me. The CVRC (Central Valley Regional Center) provides us with personal attendants that are another set of “hands” and “eyes” to keep the boys busy and make sure they stay out of trouble. Another safety measure that really helps keep my mind at ease is the AngelSense GPS Tracker that the boys wear whenever we head out.

Boys at swimming lesson

In general, we pretty much do the same thing every day with some variations.  A typical summer day looks something like this:

  • Wake up

  • Try to toilet train the boys. Give up and let them use their pull-ups

  • Breakfast

  • 20 minutes of Computer / iPod / iPad time

  • ABA Session

  • Lunch

  • Go out for a long drive /walk

  • Run an errand – I space out my errands so I have an outing with the kids every day

  • Set up kiddie pool in the backyard (can’t put on the sprinklers because of the California drought…)

  • Let them ride around the garage on their scooters

  • Dinner

  • Jump on the trampoline in our living room

  • Watch a ‘Veggitale’ movie

  • Bedtime

Boys in pool

Keep my expectations realistic. Don’t beat myself up.

Summer is not the time to set major objectives for myself in terms of teaching my kiddos new skills. Of course, I do try to incorporate educational games into our schedule. These days we like to play ‘Candyland’. I try not to be too hard on myself if we didn’t do anything “worthwhile”on any given day. In summertime, my main objective is to have a (somewhat) calm day with as much fun as possible and as few meltdowns as possible. That’s it.

Take a time out

I have become a very patient person, but by the end of the day, I have a hard time giving my boys the attention they need. I am so grateful when Steve gets home from work and takes over. Because by that time, I have a very hard time not raising my voice, or sending them to their room. It’s ok to take time for yourself to replenish your “patience” tank.

Meltdowns? Me, the boys, or everybody all at once

So many things happen around an autism home that parents have to keep their sense humor. If you don’t, you will lose your mind. If I just can’t take it anymore and my frustration gets the best of me, I allow myself to have a little meltdown of my own. I scream, laugh and yell out some gibberish. All of this ultimately makes me feel much better. Sometimes the kids join in.

Many kiddos with autism “live in the moment”. That reminds me to do the same and realize that “this too shall pass”. Even summer vacation.

Have a great summer everybody!

AngelSense is committed to creating a safer world for special needs children. We designed the AngelSense GPS tracking solution to give parents the peace of mind that their child is safe at all times. You deserve peace of mind too. Try AngelSense Today.

AngelSense is committed to creating a safer world for those with special needs and providing peace of mind to their families.

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  1. Cindy July 13, 2016 at 3:09 pm - Reply

    This article is exactly the problem we have been trying to address over our summer break! Unfortunately, our break here in Iowa is 12 weeks! It is nice to know we are not alone in trying to provide some sort of routine to help pass the days. I totally spread out my errands so that I have somewhere to go each day! I hear you on that one!

  2. Shelly July 14, 2016 at 2:32 pm - Reply

    Equine Therapy is wonderful. I have a high functioning ASD child and this is the second year that we have done Equine Therapy. It is like no other therapy. My child is more centered and truly enjoys going and this child never wants to go places home is his comfort zone. I recommend looking into it.

  3. Ilene July 15, 2016 at 4:33 pm - Reply

    How do you get the gps

  4. Anna Rose July 17, 2016 at 4:24 am - Reply

    Thank you for writing this! This summer has been quite trying on my nerves. My 5 year old son has Apraxia and Autism. He can be quite the handful! I know what you are going through, although my hat is off to you with having two with autism. My youngest is 8 months and is a handful, but only because he is 8 months 😉

  5. Christine Rhodes July 20, 2016 at 9:57 pm - Reply

    Great article Lisa, thanks. Nice to know I am not alone in the melt down department. My problem with my 17 yr old daughter is that she very seldom wants to go along to do anything. It’s most always a battle just to get out the door! Then by the time we do she has pooped in her pull ups and then there’s a new battle! Definitely need that sense of humor that ‘s for sure.

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