SURVIVING THE SUMMER HOLIDAYS (when you have a child with additional needs)

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additional needs, down syndrome, down's syndrome, equality, family, love, motherhood, new mum, special needs, Uncategorized

I have to say, despite my initial dread and anxiety of the 6 long weeks stretching out ahead of us, we are enjoying our summer holidays. As usual, at the end of the term I stood in the playground listening to everyone’s exciting plans with a slightly heavy sinking feeling. There are so many things I just cannot manage with my three kids – even a simple pop to the shop can turn into a nightmare if Seb is not focused and running off. But a couple of weeks in, and I *think* I finally seem to be getting to grips with what sort of days out work and what don’t!

So why the dread? Seb is a runner. If he sees something that takes his fancy, he just goes for it. No thought of consequence. It’s what I love most and hate most about his personality. He lives in the moment and has a passionate enthusiasm. But it often means he bolts off in the blink of an eye. Most of the time he won’t do it but there is ALWAYS the chance that he might and it means I literally can never let my guard down. I can never assume he is ok and always have to be one step ahead of him – open doors, double decker buses, escalators, dogs, babies, buskers – all temptations for Seb! Wirh two younger children in tow too, it means I am seriously outnumbered and some trips out are more stress than enjoyment. So here is my hopefully helpful suggestions / brain dump on how to have an easyish Summer!

Surround yourself with friends. Extra eyes and ears. Kids that your children love being around is so key if you have a runner like Seb – hanging out and playing with his friends is more attractive than anything else that catches his eye. Large enclosed spaces where you have a good, long visual. Nowhere overly busy – and I mean people and traffic – where you can panic if you lose sight of your child for even just a second. (Two years ago I lost Seb at Longleat for 45 mins. I was HYSTERICAL. He was found just metres from us but it was so busy it was like looking for an ant in an ants nest).

Picnics. Go and drop crumbs outdoors, chuck the rubbish in the bin and come home to your house as you left it. Always have something up your sleeve to help get your kids to leave when you want them to!! Chips or ice creams work well with Seb, and today it was the promise of a play date!

Find a decent holiday club. We are super lucky that Sebs auntie runs a club and Seb is safe and very happy (and welcome) there. Our local special school also runs one for a week, which is fab and means he gets to mix with other children with special needs. If it is tricky to get out on your own with your kids, as it is for me, then treat your weekends as week days and plan trips out when you have extra adult support.

Sniff out little neighbourhood parks outside of your own neighbourhood. Find one that is small and enclosed so you can sit and watch instead of losing sight of kids and panicking about which one to chase! Even the smallest of parks are exciting to kids if they’ve not been before, kids imaginations are wonderful. Go to the woods where’s there’s loads of long space ahead of you and things to talk about. Find a big field, take a football, a frisbee, tennis rackets and cricket stumps. Hate to say it, but soft play. One with locks on the doors that sells good coffee and cake…..better still, go when it’s sunny, it’ll be much calmer than when it’s raining.

Hang out with people who know you and your child with additional needs well and won’t bat an eyelid if you have any sort of “episode” to deal with. There is no worse feeling than feeling like your parenting skills are being judged by someone who doesn’t fully understand your life or your child.

Make a spreadsheet. Honestly. Fill in every single day. Even if some days are home days. Have people round – kids will entertain themselves and you’ll most likely get an invite in return. Go and visit friends who are an hour or so away. It’s doable in a day, nobody can go anywhere whilst they’re in the car and its an exciting day out for everyone. And, if you can, go and stay with family for a few days. Failing all that there’s always reading and writing practice 󾌴󾌴󾌴

Hope this doesn’t sound patronising, just thought I’d share as it’s taken me a fair few years (of mishaps) to work it out!

DITCH THE GUILT! I had this at the start. I felt bad that Seb (and my other kids) were going to holiday clubs. But they LOVE them. And you get a break. Or in my case work. Ahem, which is as good as a break…..

Today we went to a castle with friends and cousins. We took a picnic. We could see the kids at all times but could allow them freedom to explore and play hide and seek whilst we sat. Their imaginations were fuelled. We ended with ice creams – and best of all, all three are now sound asleep.

Happy summer xx

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