Ask the Expert: Making the Most of Your Summer

Summer is the perfect time to ‘dive in’! It is a season of opportunity! This is a great time to make memories as a family and try new things. These are some great options to serve as a spring board as you get your Summer started.
• Story Time at your Local Library
• Swim Classes (Private swim classes or group aquatic classes at Lakeshore Foundation)
• Baron’s Baseball Game
• Dinner Out as a Family (Post Office Pies, Urban Cookhouse, Twisted Root and Chick-Fil-A have sensory friendly dining experiences)
• Vacation Bible School at a Local Church
• Dance Classes (The Dance Foundation has classes designed for children with special needs or try a regular group dance class)
• CampUs at Samford University
• Local Park (Veteran’s park and Sertoma Park are handicap accessible)
• Birmingham Zoo
• McWane Science Center
• Gymnastics, Karate, Music Classes
• … The Options are Endless!
Some of these options are designed with children who have special needs in mind. Some of the classes listed above are mainly for typically developing children but that doesn’t mean your child can’t be involved. If you are interested in a dance class that your neighbor goes to, it never hurts to ask! Call the program and talk through what it would look like for your son or daughter to attend. Make sure you give the program time to prepare and think through the logistics so that it is a fun and safe environment for everyone. Be involved. The leader of the class, or the owner of the restaurant, might not know much about the challenges your child faces. Teach them ways to help calm a child who is over stimulated. Tell them about the benefits of movements and coordination in children with low or high muscle tone. You know your child best so be thinking about a few things: Will the heat, volume of music, number of other children, endurance of the activity upset your child? If so, can you go for part of the program or have a plan to help your child self-regulate as needed (i.e. taking breaks in a quiet car). Lastly, ask your therapist! We love to problem solve and think on our toes. Most importantly, we love to see the kids we work with be involved in the community. Especially when it means the children we are working with get more opportunities to grow, get stronger, communicate and make friends.
Admittedly, trying new things takes a lot of work. It is an investment by you for your child. The ideas listed above will help your child build strength, coordination, social skills, communication skills, confidence and make new friends. It will also teach the community about how SPECIAL your child is. Sometimes after I work with a family, I feel like the most blessed person in the world because I got to know a child who is remarkable, determined and unique. The more your child engages in the community, the more businesses and people will learn how to create a welcoming and inclusive environment.
Ashley Huffstuttler is a Physical Therapist serving both children and adults at United Ability. To learn more about our Summer and year-round programs, call 205-944-3944.

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