I think that most parents would agree that summer vacation time does not necessarily mean lazy mornings and strolls on the beach. In our area it is key to begin planning in February to avoid any wait lists. I always find it odd making down payments for activities that will take place in 6 months - my Type A personality likes it, but the SN mom in me always cringes as we have a history of needing flexibility. Childcare is essential for our two working parent household; given our situation, we require someone with certain skill sets which can be difficult to find. This therefore means we tend to iron that part out fairly last minute - which my SN mom side is used to, but my Type A side needs time to recover from the anxiety that results from the process.
Overall....it can be a stressful and expensive endeavor- one that I do not necessarily look forward to. In fact, I just put Daniel on the school van for the last time this school year. I am pretty sure I began to sweat a bit after. From a special needs perspective, vacation means one thing - ten steps backwards in terms of behavior, all the while involving copious planning. Seems one should support the other, but in reality it just allows for survival. In addition we have also been seeing an uptick in seizure activity this month (SN unpredictability at its best)...so, the break in routine, the loose structure, loss of friend interaction and epilepsy have made it all very unsettling for our boy. He is trying very hard to keep it together.
Extended School Year (ESY) helps...but, for us, that typically means four weeks. When you have eleven weeks to fill out - meaning weeks before and after ESY - it seems a bit counterintuitive due to the multiple transitions that are required. I will never quite understand why the school year ends on a Monday and ESY follows weeks later, but the working parent in me also doesn't understand 1/2 days at school so perhaps I am just blind to the reasoning in these cases. On the blogs and group conversations among SN families, the camp issue is a dominant conversation. What to do? While the needs for each child and family are different...here are a few suggestions:
LOCAL YMCA: The YMCAs tend to have a sensitivity to SN kiddos and some even have specific camp programs for the population. Many locations take Medicaid (varies site to site), but all offer discounted rates to families in need.
APPLIED BEHAVIOR ANALYSIS PROVIDERS: ABA providers can be a good source - either as a camp site, or for recommendations as to where to go.
MISC: In many cases, if you have wraparound services (1:1) care, more options are available. Admittedly, I was never quite comfortable with this option with our son, but I have seen it work for other families. So...have conversations with locations that your neighbors have spoken about, or that you have learned about through other sources. I did this one summer and was amazed at the number of sites that had a history of serving families like ours. While I did not follow through on any of these options, the conversations suggested to me that the SN world is not always as constrained as we some times feel it is.
LOCAL COLLEGES/UNIVERSITIES: One summer I researched local universities that offered degrees in special education. We happen to be located in an area flush with higher education institutions. I called each specific program and asked for the best way to post job opportunities - some preferred posts to be made on the specific colleges within the university where the special education programs were held, other preferred me to use the university-wide site. I just followed their advice. It turns out that these university employment sites are not just for companies, but can include babysitting and other smaller roles with no discrimination. Many of these students are looking for money, as well as ways to expand their experience and resumes...a win for everyone.
While none of these options may provide all the solutions to your summer needs, perhaps it will help with the glaring gaps and provide some relief. At the end of the day, that's what most of us need...relief. That, lots of prayers, family and a summer beverage or two over the course of the week to help get us by.