As far as I can tell, there is only one disability that prevents someone from enjoying summer– the disability of being so wrapped-up in yourself that you forget to relax.

Being able to get outdoors and enjoy nature, to enjoy spending time with other people, to have picnics and barbecues, and to have fun are some of the things that can make summer great whatever your abilities or disabilities may be. BUT there can be special challenges for families where someone has a disability.

The most basic challenge is the constant challenge for families with a disability– letting go of expectations. You can’t enjoy what you have until you stop mourning all the things that you don’t have. I have to accept that there are lots of summer activities that won’t be right for my family and start looking for activities that will work.

One of the challenges is finding the time to enjoy the summer. People with disabilities may not be too busy, but their family members can be. We may have jobs where we have to go to work, places that we need to go, and on top of that extra time relating to caring for the family member with disabilities. I find it’s hard to enjoy summer at a break-neck pace.

It may not be easy to find someone who has the time to relax and take it easy with our family member, but I believe this is crucial in arranging a summer that everyone can enjoy. Instead of looking for some kind of adult baby-sitter, what we need is someone who can take the time to enjoy the summer along with our family member with disabilities. (If it’s possible for one of our other family members to do this and live it, then that can be an added bonus for them.) It’s all in the attitude!

Another challenge is finding people to enjoy the summer with. Many peers will have a difficult time accepting and including a person with disabilities in their summer activities. Summer camp can be miserable if the camp can’t modify its activities to an appropriate level. But my family has had great experiences with Joni and Friends summer camps. Some families have had similar results at Easter Seals summer camps or other camps that have the needed ability to include and appreciate those who have disabilities.

The bottom line is that your family can find ways to celebrate summer. Let’s all slow down and open ourselves to the warmth and sunshine.


You can find out more about Joni and Friends Family Retreats by clicking here. There is also a list of other camps that facilitate people with disabilities right here.


Hugh Rutledge is the father of a son who has autism. Hugh is a textbook editor, a former missionary to Africa and Asia, and a Sooner football fan. Hugh and his wife and son live in Waltham, Massachusetts.