the hand soap incident & summer IEPs
I’ll start on a positive note, Friday was a wrap for camp! Our 3-day trial of summer camp for some of our students in special education was a success. Our kiddos were rock stars in a new environment, with new faces and schedules mostly because our teacher volunteers who provided the support and structure each day. Each camper was returned to his/her parent on Friday safe and sound and hopefully tired. I know I was! And sore from the scooter board races.
The past couple days I've been cleaning, doing laundry and stocking up on groceries to get ready for a visit with my sister, Melissa, my brother in law Rob and my wonderful nephew and niece Wil and Madison. I am so excited to spend the week with them. My sister Kelsey is arriving with her husband Matt later in the week. I love family time! Yesterday, as I was putting my groceries away, I must have left a brand new hand soap in Luke’s room before I put him down for a nap. Luke’s room is pretty basic. A very comfortable mattress, blankets, pillows, lots of stuffies and fun art on his walls. There is not a box spring or bedroom set, a dresser or anything where he can get himself into trouble, constantly pull out all of his clothes or get his fingers pinched in the drawers. Yes it has all happened at some point. But yesterday, I accidentally left the hand soap in his room. When I checked on him 30 minutes later his entire room smelled of coconuts. Coconut scented hand soap. The soap was everywhere. On him, on the rug, on his bedding, it was everywhere. My first reaction was to smell his breath to see if any of the soap was in his mouth, and thank goodness he did not. So, in the bath he went, scrubbed his run, washed his bedding and now 12 hours later, his room still smells like coconuts:) Another day in the life! I know some of you get it. On a positive note, at least I like the smell of coconuts.
Now I’m up, checking email and Luke’s progress on IEP goals are waiting for me in my inbox. Luke has a phenomenal teacher right now, so I’m not procrastinating reading it because I’m afraid of what I might read, I'm procrastinating because it’s summer and I’ve been reading IEPs, assessments reports, progress etc non-stop for the past 9 months. While I need a break, I know that I should revisit Luke’s IEP goals to do a little of my own, home, try-to-make-it fun work with him over the summer. So here goes….
I’m back. Yes, I actually did just stop typing long enough to review all 10 of Luke’s IEP goals and that wasn’t so bad. I feel good about my list of things to work on with him over the next couple months. I’m not working on all goals, just a few such as updating our visual schedule around the house, typing emails to his Grandma and Aunt Emily each week, using the language “it’s time to listen” as they do in school and practicing community safety such as looking both ways at stop signs or waiting with a calm body until we get the walk sign while out and about. Luke is 18 so he has many life skills goals and while it would be nice to see progress, my main goal is to prevent him from regressing. But let’s not put too much pressure on ourselves. Remember you are a rock star for looking at your progress report and working on even just 1 or 2 goals at home!
Seriously, even if you just read progress and have a safe, fun (or mostly fun because I know the days can be long) summer with your child, I’m still impressed!
My quick and easy tips for being productive over the summer are as follows.
Read through progress on IEP goals. If you didn’t receive them at the end of the year, it’s time to calendar the due dates and discuss with your teacher when school starts. Depending on the situation and conversation, you may need to call an IEP meeting. Progress on IEP goals is not optional.
Work on a couple of the goals in your home setting. You don’t have to go out and buy material, improvise with what you have at home. My son used to do touch math and I’d make worksheets with a sharpie. Make it fun, set a timer, use a reward such as toys from the dollar store, a favorite snack or a trip to a favorite park.
Make a book list. Write down and/or take photos of the books your child reads or you read together over the summer. You can set a goal depending on the length of the book i.e. 2 books/day for younger children or 2 chapter books/month. Customize it to what makes sense for your child. I’ve included links to some ideas for summer reading. The visual is great to see all your hard work at the end of the summer. Share with your teacher as well!
Provide some structure over the summer. Work with your child to create a daily schedule on a white board or paper. Let them pick some of the activities or snacks. Be sure to give them choices and let their voices be heard. Make it fun!
Energy is a habit! That’s one of my favorite quotes and in our house it applies more to me than my kiddos although Luke would spend all afternoon on his Ipad if I let him. Move your bodies. Take walks, ride bikes, stretch, do whatever movement based on ability. Make sure you consciously move and stretch each day! GoNoodle is free and fun or check out Cosmic Kids Yoga-there is a 2 week free trial and after that it is $10/month or $65/year. We just started doing it and Luke loves it!
Allow yourself to slow down and have periods when you aren’t checking boxes or crossing things off of your To Do list. We like to plan movie afternoons where we all get cozy and unplug to a movie of Luke and Everett’s choice. This takes a little time to get used to because like many of you I am usually busy all day and don’t unplug until my head hits the pillow each night, but I’ve come to really love this quality down time with my boys. Another idea is to plan a play date or hang out with friends. Meet at your favorite park, get ice cream, bust out the bubbles or set up the kid pool in your backyard. This social time with some friends over summer is fun and important.
Even though the first day of school may feel like it’s a long way off, we know from experience that time flies. Start to think of making an “About Me” sheet for your child next school year that your teacher can keep near their desk. Include on the sheet a photo of your child, name with nicknames, age, birthday, allergy information, safety tips, your child’s strengths, things that are difficult and what works for your child. Here’s an example. This list is important at the start of the year for new teachers but also throughout the year when for substitutes or any providers that will work with your child. Here’s an example that you can customize for your child.
The takeaway from this blog is that over summer a balance of learning and having fun is the goal. I know that finding summer activities for children with disabilities can be challenging and I hope this has given you even just 1 new idea to implement this summer.
Today Luke is helping me sweep and sort laundry (yes we will use our visual schedule) to get ready for his aunts, uncles and cousins who are visiting this week! More to come.