We live by this rule during the summer holidays: Don’t watch anybody else!!

You see, that first week used to break my heart, watching everyone out enjoying when we just couldn’t! But not anymore!

Our holidays are different but different can be good too. 😍 I have 4 boys, 3 with SEND, 2 @ home, 2 grown and flew the nest. Directly across the road. 🤣 Now, we love the idea of the holidays but, boy, is reality a different story.

You see, we have to plan, plan, plan and, even then, there’s always the possibility it could still all go wrong anyway… but you know what, that’s OK, we can’t win them all.

That first week is always the hardest 😫 the change of routine, the not knowing what will happen next is enough to send our boys off the edge. Add to the mix that some of their needs are opposite of each other’s; it just complicates things a little further.

I spend the weeks before the holidays scouring for free things to do that will meet their needs but also give them a little freedom to explore and be themselves. 😁 (Playschemes and holiday clubs can’t always meet their needs.)
I sign up for email updates, join mailing lists, scour local pages. You see, for us, we have to know in advance and have an itinerary to show the boys each week so they know what’s coming and we can keep their anxiety down. We also try to save £10 a week throughout the year (when we can) for our summer fund, as other stuff such as travel and food could cost quite a bit, even if the activities themselves are free.

I did put in a suggestion to the LA for a travel fund for SEND families in the holidays that don’t have transport access but I don’t think they were agreeable.

Kellogg’s can be good for free adult places and supermarkets like Tesco will let you exchange Clubcard points for days out, which works well for us, as there’s always that doubt when something costs a lot – what if we can’t go? – as some days we just can’t; its too much for them, and we have to cancel at short notice or leave. 😥

National Trust membership has been a godsend for us, as family membership is very cheap and gives you access to other events etc. Trust sites that are local enough to Manchester are Tatton Park and Dunham Massey, which are great, because we love the open space, the freedom to run, to explore, and to be themselves without judgement – that’s the biggest draw for us. 😍

If you can’t travel far, look up nature spots nearby. Even in this big city we have some beautiful woods, nature reserves, ponds, parks etc. We tend to take picnics (restricted diet, will only eat certain things) and go stream walking with their nets and jar, stick races in the stream, and you can mix it up and do things like breakfast at the lake if you need quieter times. 😉 Smaller city farms are usually cheaper than the big ones, and there’s a few in Manchester. I’m also not ashamed to say I have taken the boys to the dogs home for an afternoon out to look at the doggies, sat on the motorway bridge and counted the red, yellow, blue cars… didn’t cost a thing. 🤣 Do what works for you. 😉

Then, of course, let’s not forget the Local Offer’s summer offer, which although could be released a bit earlier for planning reasons, has been great in recent years. Manchester Parent Carer Forum and the Parent Champions page, along with other local SEND support organisations, are also great places for local info, invaluable advice and support on the tough days.

When we can’t do the days out, we try to do stuff in the house (the therapy, physio doesn’t stop just because it’s holidays, we just have to deliver it now 🙈). Try to stock up cheaply from Amazon, eBay, The Works, etc. Lots of crafts (collect things from the woods, parks), sensory play, mud kitchen, old utensils and pans, water play, planting, bug hunts, letter hunts, number hunts (you’ll often find free offers available for seeds and little planting kits online), and oh how mine love orbies! (me not so much when I have to get rid of them all)
A smiling boy gives a thumb up while holding his "rocket fuel" bottle. We made rocket fuel last night for our next junk modeling session (a.k.a. ink-dyed water made with an old felt tip in an old Vimto bottle 🤣) so doesn’t need to cost a lot.

The Family Fund can be used for play equipment, summer houses and trampolines if you have the space; if not, Gorilla Gyms are fab as they need that outdoor time.

Then there are the times they just need calm… no visitors, no outings, just calm. Basic needs are met; wash, teeth, clean, feed, but other than that I just let them be – no demands, no loudness, no bright lights (carefully adjusted blinds), animals on hand to pet all day (rabbits and doggies for us). A recovery day, or days if you will. 😍

We’re lucky to have a great circle around us but that’s not always easy when they don’t always understand… See were knackered sorting the kids, we don’t have time to explain because Johnny doesn’t want to go swimming with Jenny… It’s not personal, he’s not anti-social; it’s just hard and I’m sure he’d love to go next time maybe. 😉 So please do invite him again.

The most important bit is love those kids and give yourself some time too. ♥️ If you have help, use it without guilt. If you need help or support, reach out; you’re never alone. We may not all be in the same boat but we are trying to navigate the same choppy waters.

Then when the holidays are over… give yourself some time to rest and recover.

You deserve it. 😍