SEND Children & Young People: Planning for an Uncertain Summer Holiday

On the face of it, three months lockdown sounds appealing – getting up when you want, no pressure of work and of course, hours of bonding time. Scratch the surface, however, and you’ll see the cracks. For some families, lockdown has been a mixed blessing – on one hand, it’s been great to spend time together but on the other, the lack of facilities and activities on offer have impacted heavily on families, causing more than their fair share of angst. And it’s not over yet.

Here come the summer holidays (sort of)

With some pupils returning to school, the assumption is that once the end of term bell rings, the summer holidays will be in full swing. But it won’t be like the 6-week break we are used to.

In other words, the attractions that welcome us with open arms for an hour or two will either still be closed or their hours reduced, their activities limited and, due to social distancing, restricted numbers of visitors too.

All those places and people you rely on to give you the break you need with a welcome hiatus in your routine are not there and if they are, can’t offer what they normally do. For many, many children with SEND, lockdown was tough. Wiping away their routines and regular support, you’ll have grappled with the fall out at times.

The long summer break, even when it looks and feels like ‘normal’, is a change to routine that needs to be managed. This year, it will feel different. How can you make the most of your time together during the upcoming summer holidays?

1 The Now & Next Board

It won’t work for everyone but if routine provides the stability your child needs, the ‘Now & Next Board’ can be a handy tool for establishing one during the upcoming summer holidays. There are various ways to use this board:

  • Use photos of what is happening now and in the next column, a photo of the next activity
  • If your child prefers a view of the whole day, use photos of the activities that will take place (and in order)
  • Create a weekly overview, again using images and photos

You can change this board and how you use it to suit your child. Using coloured pens and involving your child in the planning is also a great move.

2 Staying in touch online

We’ve heard a lot about Zoom meeting and other online platforms that have been connecting people, sometimes with hilarious results. These platforms, including WhatsApp and Google Meets, have proved invaluable over recent months. Even though we can now go out more and do more, there are still vulnerable people we need to shield.

Using these platforms to link with friends and family members is great for factoring into your summer holiday timetable. For many children, maintaining contact with the people they would normally see regularly is a means of accessing their support. It is also invaluable for staying in touch with friends.

It can also be a good time to talk about online safety, including when your child plays games online too.

3 Home activities

When you need it most, you’ll find that your memory fails you and that great idea you had for a calming or fun craft activity at home is lost. Creating your own resources is the solution. As well as a list of activities for rainy days, you can have activities on stand-by that help to quell growing anxieties or as a fun family project that everyone contributes to.

As well as having a list and links to relevant online resources, make sure you have all the necessary equipment ready too. If you don’t use it during the summer holidays, you have it there for future holidays and long weekends. Retailers are delivering and so you’ll come across great deals on everything from Play Dough to baking goods and more. Incredible Kids has created an online resource of SEND lockdown-friendly play activities.

Don’t forget story time and music – why not create lists on Spotify of your summer tunes? You can enjoy singing time as well as making and playing your own instruments from materials you have at home.

Ideas include:

  • Deaf children can use Zoom to create online quizzes with their friends
  • Hold storytime online with friends and family
  • Baking and cooking – bake a cake and then hold an online ‘tea for two’ with grandparents or friends
  • Art activities with Coach Art

When summer ends and school starts

The pandemic has had devastating effects on families across local communities, the UK and beyond. It’s not just adults who have found this an anxious time but children too. The easing of lockdown and the impending return to normal life has heightened these anxieties in many cases.

For children and young people with disabilities, returning to school at the end of the summer holidays will present them with a whole new set of challenges. As yet, we don’t know how school will ‘look’ in September, but the UK Government has sent a clear message – parents and carers who refuse to send their children to school in September will potentially face fines (unless you home school your children). That means the pressure is on parents and carers to prepare their children for the new term and this year, it’s more than just about buying new shoes and uniform.

Children and young people with communication needs will find expressing these anxieties difficult. Social stories are a wonderful way of introducing ideas of what school may look like in the new term. From washing hands more often to having to stay apart for a little longer, these stories help children to understand these changes. Singing with Makaton is also a wonderful way of introducing the new-look school environment too. 

You can’t plan everything

As a parent of a child or young person with disabilities, you’ll know and understand the importance of routine and how, when the circumstances and environment around this changes, it can send shockwaves through the home.

Planning is important but you can’t plan everything. The issue with the recent pandemic is that Government advice on what you can do, when and with whom will continue to change, something that in itself causes uncertainty. Even though the rules of lockdown change, it doesn’t mean you have to make changes immediately – stay in your bubble for a little longer, if you need to.

Don’t forget to enjoy this time together but stay in touch with other SEND families so you can support each other, but also develop great ideas for getting through the upcoming summer holidays and the impending return to school in September. If you’re not already a member make sure you join our facebook group to stay in touch with other families.

Take a look at:

Art – and

Social Stories – and

Check out YouTube for Makaton singing with Singing Hands –

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