Military Special Needs Network

Proudly Supporting all Military Families with a Special Needs Dependent

Special Needs Parents’ Guide to Surviving Summer

ID-10041129Now that Memorial Day, the “official” start to summer, is behind us, we are free to being planning our summer vacations and get togethers. Some of us may try Disney (although, I recommend bringing proper documentation of disability if you are going to go to Guest Services for the special pass…especially after the Manhattan Mommas admitted to using autism to get front of line privileges…). Some of us may visit family from our hometowns. Others will be PCSing to new duty stations; meeting new neighbors, new congregations, making new friends.

All of these exciting events can be unsettling and upsetting for all children in general; for special needs children in particular. We prep them with social stories, First/Then boards, photos of the new location or family members that they will meet for the first time. For children who have the cognitive ability, we let them help plan our drive route, maybe even give them a vote in which house we will rent. We talk about “how cool” the new school will be – the new friends they’ll make and how AWESOME the teachers will be.

But how, as parents, do we prep ourselves? As with all too many aspects of our lives, OUR needs fall by the wayside. OUR prep is pushed aside and we end up blindsided by details, surprises and letdowns. Usually. But, I have come up with a fool-proof plan to surviving summer. And, with a little help from my friends, we have developed a plan.

We plan to drink. A lot.

In fact, we’ve come up with a fun drinking game for parents to help them survive the dog days of summer. All you need is a jug o’rum, case of beer, or a pitcher of your favorite libation at your next family reunion or ship function; a sense of humor; a designated driver; and well-intentioned folks who talk to you about your or your child’s disability. Ready? Grab a shot glass, a SOLO cup, a goblet – or all of them, and go!

  • Every time you hear, “He’s a boy! All boys do that!” – take a drink.
  • Every time someone tells you about their “picky eater” who one time didn’t eat their sandwich because they cut it in triangles – take a drink.
  • When you overhear someone talking about their wonky sports schedule, cub/girl scout schedule, gifted summer camp schedule, dance class schedule, etc. – take a drink. **Bonus points: tell them that shit is optional, but ABA, OT, PT, SPT, devped appointments, psych appointments, allergists, neuro, GI and lab appointments are not. Take another drink for being a total badass!**
  • The first person who comments, “I don’t know how you do it!” or “God gives special children to special parents!” You get to do a bodyshot off of the celebrity of your choice. NOTE: this will only work if you are partying with the Stars. If you party with the Stars, CALL ME!
  • Any mention of Jenny McCarthy, Temple Grandin, Carly, Rain Man, or someone’s friend’s sister’s neighbor’s grandkid who also has teh autizm means you qualify for a keg stand. DO IT!
  • “Just leave her with me for a week. I’ll fix her.” “I’d beat my kid if he did that.” “You need to spank him.” Take a drink, Homey.
  • “Aren’t you going to make her eat her vegetables? What do you mean he only eats three foods? If he’s hungry enough he’ll eat! Why doesn’t she have to eat what the rest of the kids are eating?” Any combination of these and you earn the beer or wine of your choice.
  • “He/She will grow out of it.” You must do a beer bong.

Enough of these comments and you’ll be so out of your mind, it just won’t matter any more!

In all seriousness, I’m always left wondering if I should explain my boys’ behaviors and disabilities, or if I should just nod and smile. Is the mental exertion that it would take to argue and counterpoint the other person actually arguing and telling me that I’m “doing it wrong.” Ninety-nine percent of the time it just. isn’t. worth. it.

I want to thank my good-humored bloggy pals for the suggestions:

(Pearl Clutchers, this is all in good fun – it is a jest only. I do not advocate drinking [okay, that’s not true]. I do not advocate drinking around your children [okay, that is true]. I have great respect for our recovering friends. If the booze reference bothers you, substitute chocolate. Again, this is meant as a chuckle-inducing piece. It may fail, but that is the intent. Please don’t comment that I am encouraging all parents to become alcoholics. Relax. Breathe.)

Photo courtesy of


Kelly is a Navy wife and mother to three children; 17 year old NT, 6 and 5 year old boys on the spectrum; and, since life was getting a touch boring, she’s added a newborn to the mix! Kelly has been featured in a collection of essays on special needs children entitled, “Wit and Wisdom From the Parents of Special Needs Children.” She can also be found at, and as a guest blogger throughout the blog-iverse. In her spare time, Kelly is the Blog Master for, and member of, the Military Special Needs Network Executive Board. You can contact her via email at

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