Hot (Accessible) Fun in the Summertime!


Those of us of another era may remember the song by Sly and the Family Stone, Hot Fun in the Summertime.  For many, the summer means excursions outdoors to places like beaches, parks, amusement parks, cook-outs, family gatherings, and athletic events.  Many other songs and stories talk about the noises of summer being filled with happiness and a sense of freedom which warmer weather can afford.  Unfortunately, not all of these activities might be accessible to a significant number of individuals.

Let’s start with the idea of the “noises” of summer.  One often thinks of the “crack of the bat,” the sounds of an orchestra or hometown band, and fireworks.  For those with sensory processing issues, those noises could cause more pain than enjoyment.  Consider the individuals with whom you are attending these events.  Be sure to bring along noise reduction or noise cancelling headphones or earbuds to help that individual be a part of the group and activity.  Although that individual might like going to a baseball game, the “roar of the crowd” might be too much.  Aside from the headphones or earbuds, see if your favorite team has a sensory area where they allow those who need it to take a break.  Don’t forget that as beautiful as fireworks are, the noises accompanying them can cause severe escalations if we do not prep our individuals and have the proper protective devices in place!

A trip to the beach sounds like fun for many folks.  The sand, sun, and surf make for a great combination.  Unfortunately, for those in wheelchairs or walkers, the beach is not something that is easily accessible.  Standard power and manual wheelchairs are not made to traverse sand.  Check with the beach where you will be visiting to see if they already have beach chairs which allow individuals to be transferred into the chair and moved more easily across the sand and to the water.  Some beaches, like one in Oregon, are putting down trails which let wheelchairs move without going into the sand itself.  Check things out first before going to make sure it is an enjoyable and accessible trip for your entire group!

There is always a concern about time off from school for younger individuals as the question about potential regression of learning arises.  Think about alternative ways of playing games which can be fun as well as enjoyable.  I always suggest having some Sillishapes letters and numbers around to play easy games which can occur in any environment, including the beach.  Have a letter of the day and talk about all the words that might start with that letter.  Engage in spelling activities when something is seen like a bird or a boat if the letter is “B.”  Another fun thing to consider is to borrow some Brainballs from the school and have outside games like “Fourquare” with a twist.  Instead of trying to get the others in the game to miss the ball, purposefully have them catch it and come up with a word that starts with the letter on the ball.  Every player must use different words until a person cannot think of any.  That person is then out.

Another game that inspires interaction is tag.  Adjust tag though to make it more accessible, even for those in wheelchairs or walkers.  Use pool noodles as the tagging agents.  Adjust the lengths for those who might be more mobile versus those who are less mobile.  Now, many more individuals can feel a part of the game.  You have also created a game that has some social distancing occurring naturally.

Some of our individuals may enjoy traveling to parks or campgrounds so that they can simply relax.  They might wish to read some books for enjoyment.  The problem arises when their reading skills are hindered by conditions like dyslexia or reading processing issues.  Look to borrow tools like the C-Pen Reader pen from the school so that reading can still be independent and fun.  If the text is online, make sure you have good text-to-speech software or a device like the OrCam Read to read whatever digital content is in front of them.  Reading can be another way for individuals to relax and still maintain literacy skills, no matter how they access the material.

The summer months can also be a highly charged time from a sensory feedback view.  So much excitement surrounds what is happening in the summer.  Be sure no matter what type of an adventure you might be embarking upon to have sensory fidgets that will be socially acceptable as well as easily transportable.  I am a big fan of the Tangle Jr for the reason that it can go anywhere, including a soccer game, summer concert, family reunion, or fireworks show and provide that sensory release when things become somewhat overwhelming.  At the pool or on the beach, I also recommend using a pool noodle or a piece of a pool noodle for that sensory feedback.  When you are around water, you want to make sure that the sensory tools make sense. 

Whatever type of sensory tool you are using, be sure to test it out first.  If it works for an individual in a home setting, it will have a higher probability of working outside of the home as well.  Never just pick something up without testing it first.  That could lead to further escalations while you are at the event.  Because you may also be in the heat, look to those items which are plastic or foam as opposed to metal or sand.  My good friend Gabe Ryan has suggested to me as well as to the groups with whom he speaks that when you have found a fidget which works, always have two when on the road.  In case one becomes lost, you immediately have a back-up!

Summer can be a wonderful time to relax and recharge!  Take a little time to make sure that every individual can also do the same and may need some simple accommodations along the way.  I wish you a wonderful, healthy, and relaxing summer!


Posted in SH Special Education Today Newsletter