The summer is an exciting time of adventure, freedom, and fun. Yet, for many children, including some of those on the autism spectrum, summer can also be daunting and overwhelming. A lack of the normal routine, new experiences, and the addition of vacations or day trips can all usher in increased anxiety.
In other words, if you are anxious about this summer, we understand.
However, there are countless engaging and exciting activities to do with your child and, with adequate preparation, your hopes for the season can still come to fruition. These five suggestions can help you and your family improve your day-to-day while out of your routine, keep your child busy, and make lasting summer memories together.
1. Prepare Your Child as Much as Possible
What makes having a routine so important to all children, and even more so for those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is its predictability. The more predictable you can make life outside of school, the easier the transition will be.
Work with your child, if they are old enough, to create a regular daily schedule with a wake-up time, a bedtime, and as much structure during the day as possible. The schedule should be flexible, to include that summer fun, but feel safe overall. Adding visuals to the daily schedule and posting it somewhere everyone can see will make it feel accessible and important.
In addition, consider:
- Bringing sensory toys or favorite items with you to new places in case your child needs to take a break.
- Creating social stories before any new experience.
- Allowing the child choice between activities when possible.
- Letting your child’s Springtide team know about summer vacations or new experiences to help them prepare as part of their programming.
2. Include Academic Skills Regularly
While your child on the autism spectrum is home over the summer, try to provide them with educational opportunities when possible. Many students through their IEPs will qualify for Extended School Year (ESY). However, these programs typically are only a small part of the summer.
Due to the length of summer break, children tend to regress in academic skills over the summer. This is known as the “summer slide”. In fact, in the United States, students regress in reading skills by about 25 percent. To avoid this, consider ways to continue honing their skills over the summer months.
Hiring a tutor to work on topics and skills they were weak in during the school year, or to practice lessons already learned, could greatly benefit a child with ASD. Camps, either ones focused on students with special needs or those that include them, will help students keep up with social and life skills. Even some apps and games on the internet can keep some skills fresh in their minds.
If your child is already enrolled in a year-round center for ABA and other therapies, like Springtide, they should remain with their usual routine throughout the summer. That way, they can avoid any potential regression.
3. Go Out into Nature
Some children on the autism spectrum are sensory seekers, some are extremely observant, while others are more prone to anxiety. For these children, adventuring out into nature on a regular basis can be a refreshing part of the new routine.
Many children are drawn to water and its calming effects. Day trips or even short outings, if possible, to a lake or the ocean allows the child time to explore in the ways they want.
Nature walks or hikes will allow for excited conversation about their observations. Let them explore with their eyes or their hands (when safe) and discover new places together.
4. Get a Membership or Season Pass
For many parents of children on the autism spectrum, new experiences can be nerve-racking, especially those as stimulating as an amusement park or zoo. However, getting a membership or pass to a place you choose gives you opportunities to make your child more comfortable and, eventually, fully embrace the adventure.
When you regularly visit a specific location, the child will learn the place inside and out. They learn its routines, its rules, and its expectations. These repeated visits will decrease anxiety over time.
Having a membership also enables you to plan for only a short time. If your child is struggling that day, you don’t have to feel guilty about leaving early, as you can return again soon.
5. Engage Your Child's Mind in Other Ways
Of course, there are ways to engage your child’s mind without leaving the house. Playing board games or joining them in solving a puzzle on a rainy day will practice skills such as taking turns and build both fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Helping you with chores around the house will review sorting, following directions, and even reading. Writing emails and letters to friends and family can keep both writing and social skills strong.
Creating a space for art in your home with various kinds of items, a place to work, and materials that engage senses can make for calming yet challenging activities. Plus, your child will feel a sense of accomplishment after finishing that day’s project.
As you are well aware, every child is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all summer plan. More than anything, work with your child to create the best summer imaginable and learn from all the mistakes along the way.
Reach out today and speak with one of our enrollment specialists to get started with Springtide