Summer must-haves for special needs kids

Summer means long days at outdoor music festivals or carnivals, trips to the beach or maybe a day out picking plums and peaches at a local farm. Summer can be a trip to the zoo, a family picnic or a day spent at the water park.

For many families, summer means finally having the opportunity to get out of the house after being locked indoors all winter and getting the chance to feel the sun and play in the grass. It also often means being away from the house all day and that can be difficult when your child has significant special needs.

While summer means fun in the sun and more time to play with friends, it also means loud outdoor noises, intense heat and other triggers for individuals with special needs. Allow your child to have the best summer possible with products designed to anticipate triggers and anxiety inducers. 

What do you pack? Do you have enough room? I mean, we’re only going to be out for one day do we really need all this stuff?

You don’t want to over pack, but you don’t want to be unprepared for the unexpected either!

  • Sunscreen: Yeah, I know, that one’s an easy one, but there is a lot more to buying sunscreen and staying safe in the sun than you might think! Sunscreen and bug spray can be super tricky for all kids, but especially kids with sensory issues. I’ve seen kids opt to stay inside rather than be rubbed down with greasy, heavy sunscreen. Always keep extra sunscreen on hand. I like the sunscreen sticks or spray because they are easy to keep in your purse.
  • Sunglasses: Maybe another no brainer, but for kids with visual impairments this can be a really important one. Lots of kids who are blind have problems with photophobia and need special protection in the sun. One mom recommends bringing a few pairs of sunglasses on any outing “so they can be broken or lost and no one has to run out for new ones.”
  • Misting Fan: These misting fans are fun ways to keep cool on a really hot day and if your child can hold the fan they can do the misting themselves. Try to find one with a simple button that is easy to push.
  • Fidget Toys to Keep Fingers Occupied: Fidget toys can help when kids or adults with special needs feel the urge to fidget or need a distraction to calm down. On outings or while at home, having a fidget toy can help keep fingers and attention occupied.
  • Waterproof Picnic Blanket: It folds up really neat and has a strap and little pouch in front when folded. It’s a nice size when unfolded and it’s waterproof, so if the ground is a little wet it doesn’t matter! 
  • Hearing Protectors for Blocking Noise and Reducing Anxiety: For individuals with special needs, loud noises can be triggers. This is especially true in the summer with larger crowds gathering, lawnmowers and loud garden tools, dogs barking and other loud noises outdoors. 
  • Water Shoes: Planning a day at the beach? Water shoes can help kids with sensitive feet handle the sensory overload of sand between their toes. One mom says her son “will spend an entire day on the beach as long as he has his water shoes. The moment his feet hit the sand and water without them it’s almost a guaranteed meltdown.”
  • Get a Towel They Can Wear: Some kids with sensory issues have a hard time going from wet to dry and back, and if you’ve ever had to swim in middle school gym class, you know the pain of trying to pull clothes on when you’re not totally dry. Coupled with the heat of summer and the grit of the beach, altogether it can be a really uncomfortable experience. Make it a little bit easier by having a quick drying towel that they can wear around like clothes. 
  • Stay Hydrated: Hydration is key for any kid in the summertime, but especially for kids with sensory issues or those on the spectrum. It’s really easy to get behind on your water intake, but especially in summer, and children are more vulnerable to dehydration than adults. When your child is dehydrated, something small can seem really big and overwhelming, so staying hydrated can help keep those feelings at bay. Let them pick out a water bottle or cup they really like , and make sure you clean it often.

So get packed and get moving! What are you waiting for? It’s a beautiful day outside!

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