Relationship Rescue: Special Needs Teenagers and Summertime
Question: What to do with your special needs teenagers when school is over for the summer?
Advice: Summer is officially here and those of us with special needs teenagers are at a loss for what to do about giving them some independence. It’s frightening to think about leaving a special needs teen at home alone. Let’s face it, it’s not easy to leave an independent typical teen at home. My imagination always goes to the movie “Home Alone” and all of the trouble the character got into. Except, this is not a make believe movie, it’s your life and you have concerns. I wanted to create a safe environment for my teens to be slightly independent. I am able to leave them for a few hours, at best. I don’t allow any cooking to go on. Sandwiches are made and ready to go in the refrigerator. The pets are all taken care of prior to my leaving for the short period of time. I put in a movie of their choice that they have earned. The most important thing is my attitude towards them. If I believe in them, then they believe in themselves and don’t panic. I go over safety rules. Examples include: how do you dial 911 and what do you do if there is a fire? It obviously depends on the disability of the individual. Will my teens be completely independent? No, probably not. But, baby steps always come first. We are fortunate in our community because we have access to a special needs camp for teens. It took some financial planning, but we are very lucky that we are able to have them spend some time away. This will be their second summer. As I have said in previous columns, it’s so wonderful when they come back because they have proven to themselves that they can be away from home. It’s not easy, you just have to do the research…and not at the last minute. It takes planning! There are programs out there and some of them may offer financial assistance.
Have a safe summer!
Robin Newman LCSW PC
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This post originally appeared on our July/August 2012 Magazine