Why Summer Vacation Looks Different for Each of My Daughters
Columnist Jacqueline Babiarz's daughter with Rett syndrome prefers the school year to summer
As a teacher, I’ve learned that not every child loves summer and holiday breaks. Not every child goes on vacation, enjoys fun, experiential trips to nearby cities, museums, and ball parks, or hangs out with friends. Some children prefer to be in school because that is where they socialize the most.
Growing up, I loved breaks and weekends because I was a social child who played sports and went to camps. As parents, my husband and I are fortunate enough to provide our family with outings and vacations. The summer, however, is when I notice the biggest social difference between my two girls.
I know my oldest, Cammy, would prefer to be in school with a schedule. My younger daughter, Ryan, loves sleeping in, going to the pool with friends, having sleepovers, and running around with neighbors. My girls prefer different activities because Cammy has Rett syndrome and Ryan is neurotypical.
At 13, Cammy should be walking downtown to the local coffee shop with friends. She should be playing mini golf, going to overnight sports camps, and getting dropped off at the movie theater. I should be reprimanding her for being on social media, swearing, and staying up way too late messaging with her buddies. Instead, she uses a wheelchair and is unable to talk or use her hands due to Rett syndrome. She doesn’t have the independence a typical teenager does.
Cammy attends summer school, where she is happy to see the familiar faces of school chums, teachers, aides, and therapists. This is her social environment, and she thrives on the routine. She still goes to movie theaters, accessible parks, bowling alleys, and our community pool, but not on her own. I assist her the entire time. There is no break for me or independence for her.
On the other hand, Ryan has already gone to a week-long sports camp this summer with her cousins at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa. She’s had a bunch of sleepovers and trips to the community pool with friends. Ryan regularly walks to our local downtown area to shop and eat with her fellow sixth graders. She loves sleeping in, making her own lunch, and playing Ghost in the Graveyard with our neighbors until 10 p.m. I drop her off at tennis camp then pick her up 90 minutes later. She has the freedom and independence to do all of this on her own as a neurotypical child.
While Ryan is social in and out of school, Cammy has more opportunities to be social in school because of her Rett syndrome. But regardless of disability, some children prefer to be in school and do better on a schedule. As the school year nears, I try to remember my own children’s experiences so I don’t assume every student loves summer.
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