If you have a child with autism, the end of the school year can be a stressful time. However, summer fun and learning can happen with some planning and effort. The Florida Autism Center offers up these tips for making the transition into summer a little easier for you and the child in your life.
5 Big Tips for a More Successful Summer
1. Prep for change
Often, children with autism have a difficult time with changes in routine. Going to a new place and being around new people for the summer can be very difficult. Make this easier for your child by talking to him about the changes to come well before they actually occur. Try to provide an opportunity to see the new location and meet new caregivers several times before the first day your child will attend. Also, send along some favorite items to comfort your child and give a sense of normalcy. Be sure to talk with the staff of the program, giving them ideas of phrases they can use or activities your child enjoys that will help your child feel more at ease. At the Florida Autism Center, we also recommend that when a child is new, “demands” or requirements of the child should be kept light and the primary focus should be on just making it fun for the first few days in a new setting.
2. Have a plan for “maintenance”
Your child worked hard to acquire what she has learned this school year. Twelve weeks off can be a death sentence to all that hard earned progress if there isn’t a solid plan for maintenance. Talk with your child’s teachers before the school year ends. Ask for summer work or programming. Ask for a list of skills your child has acquired during the school year. Be sure your child continues to access the material throughout the summer months.
3. Create a schedule
Make sure your child has some form of order to his summer. Post a calendar with big events, like an upcoming vacation, as well as an hour by hour day planner. If you want your child to complete specific activities everyday this summer, put it on the schedule with a time it should be completed. If an activity occurs weekly, review it the evening before. For example, if there are swim lessons on Tuesdays, it may help to review that on Monday nights.
4. Plan social outings
Lacking social skills is one of the core deficits of autism. Practice is needed to foster these skills, so try to make sure your child engages in a few activities with peers each week.
5. Invest in summer therapy
If your child receives after school treatment or therapies through a local program, find out if that program offers increased service for summer. Talk with your provider about options for extra therapy in a setting you already know and trust.