How to plan afterschool activities for your special needs child (and their siblings)

Posted by Deborah Grauzam on

You know the feeling of the first few weeks of a new school year.  There is the shopping for backpacks and school supplies.  Clothing and shoes and if you are like my son, a great number of very specific shirts.  Even if your child is in a preschool setting, there are still so many things to get and do.

And once you accomplish them, once you get their new schedule and they are on their way, you breathe.  Right?

Right!! …….for about 30 seconds.

And then comes the homework, after school sports and classes. The“Hey Mom, where is my (insert name of lost object here)?” or the “Mom, did you know class pictures are today?”  Yes, it is all there!

For those who have all the above fun stuff (and I truly mean fun, because those crazy, busy moments are what life is truly about), and a child with special needs, well!  You are managing therapies as well as all that after school stuff.

It really is a balancing act because you know you have to keep up with the therapies for you child but you know you want to do those sports or lessons with all your children as well.  But how do you make sure that you are keeping up with it all?

I thought I would offer some thoughts out to those who have 17 balls in the air this Fall.

TalkTools | siblings 

TalkTools | afterschool activities

Sounds simple right?  But sometimes in the heat of the moment, you say: Sure, I think that karate three nights a week would be fun.  And it probably will be, for about a week or two.  But then you realize it is 25 minutes there and back, and then there is a therapy one night that you now see you will have to move, and then the therapist can’t do it the night you can, and so now you are double booked, looking at your child in his karate outfit and you watch at the same time.

So best to get a calendar and really think, marking down the WHOLE time it takes to accomplish any afterschool activity.  And mark down the therapies…all of them.

Then look and ask yourself…can I do this schedule in a month?  Two months?

I am SOOO not saying to do nothing but therapies…No, No, No, Just that sometimes it helps to remember that therapies and life with your special child as well as typical siblings if that is the case, is a marathon, not a sprint and as such, bursting out of the gate may feel great but really cannot be sustained.  And you want to have your child(ren) both typical and special needs to have the chance to do these things long term.

So an exhausting schedule will take its toll pretty quick.  And if you think I am not talking from experience, I will happily share with you my Fall of 2003 as a prime example.  I think I am still catching up on my energy from that time.

TalkTools | afterschool activities

I always wanted Elizabeth’s sister, Emily to have choices for her after school times.  Elizabeth would come with us.  I always tried to have something to do with Elizabeth that was “work.” For those who have read previous blogs from me, you know “work” is my reference to any homework given to me by our therapists.

So I would plan what I would attempt to do with Elizabeth while we were waiting for Emily:

  • Maybe it was to bring her speech folder along and go over sounds
  • Maybe it was to look at a magazine and have her try to name new things and verbally highlight sounds.
  • Maybe it was talking a walk around the building and stomping our feet for sensory input or twirling her as if we were dancing.
  • Maybe practicing cutting or coloring or even spelling their name of a wipe off board.

I am using some easy examples here but the offering is that this time, while occupied for one can be open homework time for your special child.

Just remember to tell your child what you are planning to do, this way they can anticipate correctly.

TalkTools | afterschool activities

Yes, I said it ….enjoy.  Time passes quickly and to enjoy all moments is a gift.  We are 19 years in on our journey with Elizabeth, and I can truly say we tried to enjoy all the good that we could.  So even the crazy times have those really good moments.

Good luck with the start to all the new school years.  I wish you peace.

-Michele Gianetti

Michele writes for TalkTools Blog every month about her experience caring for Elizabeth, her daughter with Sensory Processing Disorder and Dyspraxia. Follow her story since the beginning here.

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