How to prepare your child with autism for the summer break
People all over the Northern Hemisphere are getting excited about getting ready for summer. Whether your family enjoys the beach, cookouts, ball games, or barbecues, you are certainly ready to ditch Old Man Winter and enjoy some summer fun.
For a child with ASD, though, summers can be a challenge. With their need for consistent schedules and routines, some summer activities may present difficulties. Kids with sensory issues may have a tough time with the bright sun and with loud music at the beach. Others may have difficulties adjusting to new surroundings while they are on vacation.
With a few tips from experienced therapists, though, you can help your child enjoy his or her summer vacation as much as the rest of your family.
1. Keep your child's routine as close as possible to that of the school year : When your children are in school, they usually wake up at a given time, leave for school at a certain time, and have a regular schedule while they are in school. They return at the same time almost every day, do their homework, eat dinner, play, take a shower, and then get into bed. Try to get your children up at the same time as they do during the regular school year. Provide structured activities to fill the time during which your child would have normally been in school. Make an effort to keep the rest of the schedule as similar as possible to that of the school year. Be sure to ask your child's therapist for more ideas tailor to your child's needs.
2. Stay on Top of the Heat and the Bugs: For kids with sensory issues, summer heat, bug bites, and poison ivy can be doubly annoying. Make sure that your kids get plenty of water and that they come inside the house when they feel sticky and hot. Encourage them to take showers or jump into the pool when they feel sweaty. Make sure that your children use sunscreen and bug spray properly. Have plenty of medications to take care of bee stains and poison ivy exposure. If you can be proactive in dealing with summer's minor annoyances, your kids will be more comfortable and less likely to exhibit inappropriate behavior.
3. Plan Vacation Activities From Your Child's Perspective: Visiting relatives, going to a crowded beach or theme park can overwhelm children with autism. If your children have difficulties adapting to these situations, there are several things you can do. Those sensitive to loud noises can wear noise-blocking headphones or ear plugs. If they are sensitive to touch, prepare your child for Grandma's hugs beforehand. You might want to prepare Grandma to receive less than an enthusiastic hug in return. Assure her by saying something like the following, “Yes, Grandma, Johnny loves you very much. As best as you can, try to keep your child's regular routine, even when traveling. For many kids with autism, a travel bag helps to keep them entertained. In the bag you can put water bottles, books, travel-sized games, snacks, toys, and other items that will keep them busy. By keeping them busy, they are more likely to exhibit appropriate behavior.
If you prepare wisely for your child's summer vacation, your family can look forward to making the kinds of memories that hold a family close together even during difficult time. If you need more information about getting your child adjusted to his or her summer schedule, be sure to ask your child's therapists.