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Transitions from School to Home for Summer Break

Preparing and planning for summer break ahead of time can make for a successful transition from school, especially for those with sensory processing challenges.

During the school year, teachers and parents create predictable daily routines at school and for homework time. With summer break approaching, parents and caregivers are wise to develop a daily summer “sensory tune-up” with their child. Together they can pick from an abundance of possible sensorimotor activities (sometimes called a “sensory buffet”). If your child has had the Sensory Processing Measure assessment and you have used the Sensory Processing Measure Quick Tips, ask your team to look at possibilities with you for SPM Quick Tips strategies which can be used over the summer break for additional support. These may help the child and family members adjust to the changes in summer schedules and routines.

Some possibilities to consider:

  • Prepare a weekly visual schedule so everyone knows what to expect. There are apps for that!
  • Daily, use a trampoline; go to the playground or swimming pool. Review all the safety rules, with pictures if necessary.
  • Read books together or organize a book club.
  • Schedule play dates, using social and sensory stories to help the child visualize what will happen before, during and after the big event. Organize sensory games such as the “hot dog” or “pizza game” providing deep pressure touch using a “stability ball” or “RollEase”
  • Look for a summer camp which caters to creating “sensory-safe” environments and games for children with sensory processing challenges. Or go together to a “family camp” where you as the parent can help organize “sensory tune ups”.   

Good work for the muscle system (proprioceptive) which can help to calm and organize.


Good work for the movement system (vestibular) which can help promote good balance and attention.


Provides deep pressure touch (tactile) which can be calming and organizing.


If you are going to amusement parks such as Disneyland prepare ahead of time by reading Managing the magic at Walt Disney World for individuals with sensory sensitivities By Sandra Bostwick ( Vol. 22 •Issue 16• Page 14 ). You will gain insight on how to follow the sequence of research (to be able to anticipate), rehearse (to refine the list of strategies and help the child use them effectively), reflect (to explore strategies for deeper awareness and self-confidence) and reward (choose the day's reward in advance, set a realistic target goal with behaviors, and watch how hard the child will work to achieve it.)

If appropriate, schedule some intensive occupational therapy in a clinic which provides OT/SI or Ayres Sensory Integration (ASI™) intervention. This may be a good time to for your child to participate in this therapy, which he may not be able to do during the school year. (See previous blog dated 4-17-14 for details)

Plan a family vacation which includes the opportunity and time for daily “sensory tune ups”.

Below are some suggestions developed for a 1st grader with sensory processing challenges, especially sensory over responsiveness to sounds:

1. Establish a daily routine and unless an emergency crops up, stick to it. This should include:
a. Wake up activities of brushing, rubbing lotion and touch pressure.
b. Many opportunities daily to perform “heavy work”: carrying, pushing, pulling (tug of war), climbing, hanging and swinging.

2. Write a visual daily schedule where he can see it and have him cross off the activities as they are completed. This worked well for him during the testing at school, and helped him get through, even those tasks which were difficult.

3. Limit the number of activities and when possible the number of children involved in the activities. He does better in smaller groups.

4. Schedule breaks during activities and between activities. He NEEDS breaks (so do you) ...even if just to get away for a few minutes and go to a quiet space, or swing. Just giving him a few minutes to cross out activities as they were done, allowed him to regroup during the testing. Having scheduled snack time could be a helpful break too.

5. When having to do a task, count out the # of steps and have him tell you how many more, till they are all done. He likes to know “I have 4 3 more...etc."

6. Inform the group leaders about his auditory processing challenges, so that they too use less verbal and more visual signals (hand signals, stop sign, etc). Also, that he will need breaks throughout activities to be able to regroup. Letting him be the helper for designed short jobs could be helpful.

7. If going on hikes, use a Camelback type hiking pack which provides the touch pressure as well as oral motor input through sucking on the tube for water.

8. Before leaving your home, go over the schedule and have him help write the schedule, activities he will be joining in on, what he can do instead, what is ok to do, and what is not ok to do. Have him include when he will need breaks and what can help him during a break.

Keep it simple!!!!!!!!

Go over the schedule in the car traveling to the camp, upon arrival and daily to reinforce what you have already discussed. If you can add pictures, this will make it easier for him be able to visualize the schedule.

And finally take time for YOU, the caregiver. Put time aside to rest and create opportunities which nurture your soul. Let your child know “It is mom’s (or dad’s) time”. Even if it means just getting away to take some deep breaths. Let your child understand that you too need your time, to make you a better caregiver.

Enjoy the journey and have a wonderful summer break!

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Comment by Sue Wilkinson on May 28, 2014 at 11:44pm

Diana, thanks for posting the link to this wonderful blog on LinkedIN. I agree with all 8 of the suggestions. I am also glad to know about the article on prepping kids for a positive sensory experience at an amusement park.

My favorite tip is in the last paragraph. Parents need to nurture their own soul! They are often last on the daily list... and Nuturing THE Nurturer ends up being the best for The Child too! Happy Spring! Happy Summer!

Comment by Diana Ashby Henry on May 19, 2014 at 10:29am

Stay tuned for next month's post titled:

Treat Yourself to A Summertime Continuing Education Webinar!

Now that summer is here, time to relax, right? Yes…and it is also an opportunity for continuing education. Like our children, we need to take advantage of the summer for learning too. How exciting to be prepared for the upcoming school year with new “sensory tools” .

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