July 2022 – After the NICU

Jenny R. McCormick, Senior Editor of PreemieWorld

Summertime is here and the living is easy…or so the song goes. For parents of special needs preemies however, the living may not be quite so easy as schedules change and adapting to such changes aren’t always easy. Here’s some simple ideas to help your child thrive this summer.

Establish daily exercise: If your child thrives on structure, consider adding a daily walk into your routine. This will keep days organized and scheduled, which may be important as kids are thrust from their usual routines. Plus, it gets you and your child to exercise together by taking a stroll through the neighborhood or a nearby park.

Routine, Routine, Routine: For many preemies on the spectrum, routine is key. It may be important to be consistent with bedtime routines even over the summer. Morning routines from the school year may also help – setting a wake up time, brushing teeth, getting dressed and eating breakfast may help set the tone for the day. Others may prefer a more relaxed routine. Figure out what works best for your child and household and try to stick to it.

Create a visual calendar or schedule: Many special needs children love using visual calendars. These are simply calendars with pictures instead of words so that they’re easier to understand for children who can’t yet read or don’t read well. You can print a calendar page or draw one on a poster board if you need more space. Then draw, cut out pictures, or even use photos to show activities, obligations (like doctor visits or therapy appointments), vacations, visits with friends, trips to the library or park, or whatever else you want to include. These calendars prepare kids for the day and give them a heads up of what will take place.

Sensory friendly activities: Finding something to do with your preemie over the summer doesn’t have to be challenging. Websites such as Pinterest have loads of fun sensory activities to do with kids that appeal to the visual, tactile and olfactory senses and are easy to make, such as scratch and sniff paint, playdoh, tabletop sensory boxes and puzzles.

Keep expectations realistic: Summer is not the time to set major objectives in terms of teaching your kiddos new skills. Keep it simple. Try not to be too hard on yourself if you haven’t done anything you felt “worthwhile” on any given day. The main objective is to have a (somewhat) calm day with more fun and hopefully less meltdowns. KEEP IT SIMPLE.

Take a time out: How many of you start the day out with an endless supply of patience only to realize that your patience tank is close to empty by late afternoon? When patience is depleted, it’s so hard not to yell, send kids to the room or feel like giving up. Know when it’s time to give yourself a timeout and without guilt, do what you need to do to give yourself some peace and calm. It’s okay to walk away for a bit.