Tag Archives: Summer Activities

Scheduling Summer Activities for Kids with Autism

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African Family Happiness Holiday Vacation Activity ConceptSummertime offers opportunities and challenges for all parents. For parents of children with special needs, both may seem magnified. Here are some helpful tips to consider when planning your child’s summer break:

PLAN AND DISCUSS AHEAD OF TIME
As summer begins, discuss with your child any changes and plans that might occur. Give your child multiple opportunities to ask questions and to process what their summer might be like. Find out if there are activities that he or she might like to explore. Offer examples and be prepared to discuss details of what might be expected.

CONSIDER A DAILY SCHEDULE
Schedules are often difficult to create and maintain, but having one in place can be a huge stress reducer. During the school year your child may be used to a morning routine, a predictable school schedule and consistent after school activities. The summer can undo much of that, so having a schedule in place can give some comfort and predictability. It can also allow you to program important goals, such as practicing social skills, keeping up with academics, and reducing video game and TV time. Ideally, an outside activity such as sports would be on the schedule each day. Even if a child doesn’t participate on a team, a sports or exercise activity that can be performed in the yard, at a gym, or on a play date has obvious health benefits, and increased physical activity helps reduce repetitive behaviors and improve sleep.

KEEP UP THE HOMEWORK ROUTINE
It’s okay to have less of it, but keeping a homework routine in place can be valuable, since you’ve worked hard to develop and maintain this routine throughout the school year. A more casual approach over the summer can result in setbacks when school begins again. Plus, it’s a positive and productive routine in which you can insert more social skills related content. Consider buying a workbook on social and emotional skills that can be a focus of the summer homework routine.

WORK ON SOCIAL SKILLS
This is the biggest opportunity provided by the summer break. Working on social skills goals can take many forms—as a homework assignment, as mentioned above, or expanding involvement in the community, sports, and play dates. Some parents forget that activities like swim lessons, barbecues, and vacation trips can all be valuable new settings to prompt the use of social skills. A summer job, in any form, often provides social opportunities.

TURN OFF THE VIDEO GAMES AND TELEVISION
Many of us struggle with this, since video games and television provide a much-needed break for parents, providing easy and low-cost entertainment. While it’s easier said than done, limiting these activities is critical for social development and critical thinking. We all know that sitting in front of any machine for long periods is counterproductive, so, enough said!

REMEMBER THAT IT’S YOUR SUMMER TOO
Without the routine of the school year, summer can feel like an extra burden to parents as they try to keep their children occupied and happy. Remember that summer is for everyone, so try to include activities that are interesting to you, too, and can hopefully be enjoyed by the whole family. The beach, an outdoor festival or concert, a hike or sculpture garden— whatever you plan, it’s okay to create a few summer memories of your own.

Watch our Parent Video: Summer Activities for Kids with Autism in Your Community

Here are some additional resources to help make your season great for the whole family:

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Planning a Fun and Safe Summer for Kids with Autism

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Mother and child holding hands on vacation looking at swimming p

Summer is officially here and along with the joy of concluding another school year, comes the challenge of navigating so many unscheduled, unpredictable and unexpected elements of the season.

Here are some helpful tips for planning your family’s summer activities that we hope will help create more fun and reduce the stress:

Maintain Some Structure
Try to maintain your child’s typical eating and sleeping schedule as much as possible. It’s not easy to stick to a schedule during summer, especially as this is a time when you want to let go a bit and relax. If you can maintain the basic structure of your child’s routine, you are less likely to have an overwhelmed child and the disruptive behavior that results.

Theme Park Programs
Visiting theme parks is a summertime family favorite but it also can bring a host of challenges for any child on the spectrum. Many parks offer Ride Accessibility Programs or Fast Pass programs for individuals with disabilities. If this is not an option for your family, there are other strategies such as planning your route ahead of time, splitting up (one parent goes with one child to an attraction while the other parent goes with another child to a different one), and bringing noise cancelling headphones to give your child a sensory break, etc.

Prepare in Advance
Travel requires specific preparation for children on the spectrum. It is important to familiarize your child ahead of time with the destination using photographs, videos etc. If your child has never flown or stayed in a hotel before, practicing these on a small scale (a one-hour flight first and a one-night stay at a local hotel are a really good idea).

Travel Safety
It is really important to understand a lot about where you will be staying during your vacation and the level of security of those locations. For example, if you are renting an apartment or home, it is critical that you check that each door has a lock and that the perimeter of the house is secure. Check whether your child can exit the location unassisted and be aware of what you need to do to secure the premises.

It Takes a Village
While vacationing, introduce your family.  Families who share with those around them, (especially in unfamiliar places like vacation destinations) about their child’s special needs tend to experience a more accommodating and supportive community. Helping others understand how they can help, can make your experience more relaxed and enjoyable.

Get Support From Your Team
Remember to use what works for your child while planning your family’s activities.  If you are working with an ABA provider, ask for assistance with goals that support a specific outing or trip.

Here are some additional resources to help make your season great for the whole family:

Watch our Parent Video: Summer Activities for Kids with Autism in Your Community

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