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Special Needs Children: Summer Programs Ideas to Keep Them Engaged


summer program for special needs children

As summer rolls in, parents start to worry about how to ensure their children have fun while maintaining a routine. We understand their concern because apart from having fun with family, going on vacation, and eating ice-creams, children also experience learning loss during the summer break.

Therefore, parents use a variety of ways, such as summer camps, clubs, community groups, intermediate-classes, and many more to prevent skills regression. Although any child can go through skills and learning loss, several reports suggest that it is more common in children with special needs, such as Down syndrome, Asperger’s syndrome, Autism, etc. For this reason, it becomes essential for special needs children to practice skills in summer vacation as well.

Well, it may not always be possible to send your child to a special needs summer camp or community group, especially if she/he is too young or is not ready to be a part of it. So, what options do you have for your special needs child? If you’re stuck in such a dilemma, don’t worry. In this post, we will give you some incredible summer program ideas for special needs children that you can practice from the comfort of your home.

  • Word hunt

If you want to help your special needs child to build reading and counting skills, word hunt is the solution. An activity like this is not only fun but also allows your child to practice skills.

To do so, you should create a word list and pen down each word on a sticky note. The next step is hiding each sticky note at different places in the house. Your special needs child can use this word list to search for words hidden in your home. Upon finding each sticky note, make sure your child reads it as loud as possible.

Lastly, when she or he finds all the words, ask them to count the number of words, and read again loudly.

  • Have a sidewalk word ladder

Another exciting summer activity for practicing spelling and reading skills is by making use of a sidewalk word ladder. To create a sidewalk word ladder, all you need is a piece of pavement chalk. You can use it to scribble words, such as days of the week or months of the year, on the vacant spaces of the ladder.

Ask your child to stand at the bottom of the sidewalk ladder. As she or he moves up and steps on each word, make sure your child says the word out loud. The same thing follows when moving from up to down the ladder. You can also swap words with letters or numbers to make this an activity for practicing counting.

  • Leverage outdoor memory game

You can make use of an outdoor memory game with a paper plate to help your child practice skills, like math problems, words, matching, and many more. For this activity, firstly, you need to be outdoors and collect some paper plates, which you will use for drawing a wide range of things. You can draw anything from words to shapes, numbers, or colors as per your needs and preferences of practicing skills.

Please remember, you need to draw each item in a pair so that your child can find the right match. You can also make it an advanced activity by adding an extra challenge of adding or multiplying the numbers together. Besides enhancing your special needs child skills, this activity will also improve their memory.

  • Sensory play

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We are all aware that children with special needs, like Autism, have difficulty in reacting to sensory information. Some children are over-reactive, while others may be under-reactive to everyday sensory stimuli. It is best if you play this activity outdoors, such as in a local park, and create a sensory station using silly putty, shaving cream, colored water, and paint.

Now, add all these ingredients to a bucket to create a mixture. Ask your child to dip his/her hands in it to familiarize gooey textures. Along with this, sensory play will also boost their tolerance to moisture and liquids.

  • Word jar

Are you searching for a summer program for special needs children that improve their vocabulary skills? If so, a word jar is just meant for you. To create, use pieces of paper scribbled with different words, and fill them in a clean and dry jar. You can either play this game daily or once a week, along with a few other children.

If you’re thinking of each day, ask your child to pick a word from the jar and define it. You can also advance the level of this activity by asking your child to use this word as many times as possible. With this activity, you can help your kid build vocabulary skills.

  • Play around with stickers

You can further enhance your child’s skills, like decision making, by practicing to sort and identify a wide range of colors. To conduct this activity, you need stickers that your child will match with their respective pieces of colored paper. Swap colors with numbers and use this activity for practicing counting skills. Additionally, you can also use stickers of different sizes and shapes.

  • Build a tent

Sometimes, all you want is to keep your child engaged for hours, especially if going out doesn’t seem a favorable option. In this case, you can teach your kid how to build a tent, which will not only keep him/her busy but also teach them the benefits of teamwork. If you already have a camping tent, ask your child to choose the best spot for setting it camp. On the other hand, you can also use sheets, pillows, and chairs. Once you both finish pitching a tent, then relax inside and tell some moral stories to your child.

  • Collect nature items for a book

One of the best ways for your child to have a great sensory experience is by walking through the outdoors and collecting items, such as leaves, fossils, shells, flowers, and branches. When she or he touches these things, they will feel texture, shape, size, and other elements. You can use these collected items to create a customized nature book.

  • Indulge in finger painting

If you are a parent to a kid with cerebral palsy, finger-painting is the best summer activity for him/her. It’s because by indulging in this game, the muscles in your child’s hands, arms, and fingers get stronger. Kids with cerebral palsy have problems related to mobility. Thus, finger-painting not only allows your child to become more flexible but will also elicit a sense of happiness.

These are just a few ideas of summer activities you can try at home to help your child stay on track during the break and prevent skills regression. However, there are countless activities, and depending on your needs, you can choose the most suitable option for you.

The final word

Keep in mind that learning never has a break. It is an ongoing process. When it comes to children with or without special needs, they tend to become lazier during the summer break and experience loss of skills. If you don’t want this to happen with your special needs child, buckle up to create a fun and learning vacation.

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