For many kids, summer vacation is a fun part of the year to relax and play. However, for kids with sensory issues, the summer presents its own set of challenges. The sudden lack of a consistent schedule paired with the sensations of the intense heat and sunlight of summer can be the perfect combination for sensory overload. Luckily, there are steps parents can take to make sure their children have safe, enjoyable summer vacations.
Create a Schedule
First, sit down with your child to make a summer schedule to make up for the lost consistency of daily classes at school. You can give your child a calendar that they can write in their schedule, color, and put stickers on. Consider enrolling your child in summer activities that meet weekly. You can also let your child mark upcoming events on the calendar with a marker or a sticker. For example, the family beach trip can be marked with dolphin stickers for each day that your family will be at the beach. Weekly art classes can be marked with a paintbrush sticker. After you’ve made your schedule, try hard to stick to it as best as possible. Knowing what to look forward to will give your child a sense of consistency and stability.
Know Your Child’s Triggers
No child is exactly alike. The things that may trigger children with sensory processing issues vary from child to child. No one knows your child as well as you do. This means that you can plan ahead for things that you know may give your child sensory overload. So, for example, if you are going to the beach and know that your child is sensitive to heat and bright lights, you can make sure to pack shoes to protect tender feet from the hot sand, sunglasses to shield from the bright rays of the sun, and a towel and umbrella to create a safe, shady spot to play and relax.
In addition to shoes, sunglasses, and an umbrella, here are a few other things to consider bringing with you when your family takes a summer trip:
- Bug spray. Mosquito and tick bites can cause days of itchy discomfort. A good bug spray can help to protect against bug bites. Make sure to test a few to find out which ones your child likes. Some bug sprays have sticky consistencies or strong smells that are problematic for children with sensory processing issues.
- Sunscreen. Just like bug bites, a sunburn can cause huge discomfort. Be sure to apply sunscreen whenever planning to spend time outside. When applying sunscreen, the deep pressure of using massaging, even strokes can be calming for kids.
- The right bathing suit. There are many styles of bathing suits. Some children can’t stand the pressure of an elastic waistband or the light brush of ruffles. Make sure that your child is comfortable with their bathing suit before you purchase it.
- Portable shelter. Whether at the beach or the park, an umbrella or small tent can be a safe haven for children to retreat to when feeling overwhelmed. Providing this space for your child to utilize can be key to avoiding sensory overload.
The Connections Therapy Center
The Connections Therapy Center serves families of children and adolescents with disabilities and special needs. We are a team of experts in the fields of pediatric speech, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, and behavioral sciences. As a team, we offer intensive hands-on therapy for children and adolescents, as well as informative and useful resources for families. If you are interested in learning more about what we can do to help your family, visit us online or give us a call at (202) 561-1110 (Washington, D.C. office) or (301) 577-4333 (Lanham office). Want to get more information on how to help your child thrive? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest.