Autism: Summertime Tips for Families
Summer is a time when kids run free from teachers and homework, joyfully welcoming sweet, long months of sleeping in and relaxing. Smiles abound as friends and family come together to enjoy sizzling barbeques, refreshing pool parties, and juicy popsicles to fight the sweltering heat. What a wonderful time for family bonding!
However, a joyful summer isn’t always the case for families with children who have autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In fact, summer can quickly become a source of looming anxiety for such parents. This is because summertime rips away one very important aspect from these kids — routine. Plucking a child with autism from their daily routine of going to school can make things worse for them. Due to this loss of structure and routine, some children regress and experience more severe symptoms.
Without the usual stimulation, these kids then become bored easily, causing their behavior to worsen: they may withdraw from society, and the loss of structure may trigger aggression in them. However, families can make this time easier for their kids by keeping them happy during the summer holiday.
- Keep a routine: Parents can step in and provide a new schedule to make up for the loss of the school routine. A daily schedule can be very helpful to keep the child’s structure alive. This helps with learning new things and with task transitions as well. When such children have a routine in their lives, they are less likely to act out or withdraw.
- Make vacation fun and healthy: This task can be daunting for parents, but first, be detailed in your planning. Schedule specific things as well as hygienic tasks, too. Also, put the child’s chores at specific times. This way, there can be activities included that will be fun and flexible for the kids. It is important to be detailed and structured in advance. Be sure to include free time in your child’s summer schedule as well when they can do whatever they choose. They can perform their favorite activities and you can help them be independent.
- Involve them in your own schedule: Use pictures and visual aids to better communicate with your child if the child is non-verbal. They can convey the ideas for activities with pictures from the internet. This will help their decision-making skills, and they will also learn independence. Involve them in the planning process of their new schedule.
- Seek help from available programs: There are social groups promoted by research studies that could prove helpful. Development of social and communication skills becomes easier when autistic children are placed with kids of a similar age. These groups can also provide great structure and routine. Some are local, whereas some are like summer camps. For children with autism, both types are beneficial.
- Encourage your child to stick to their schedule: For a child with autism, enforcing a schedule can be difficult. As a type of reward system, keep them engaged in their own routine. This further enables them to keep up with the schedule. When they have earned the time to do their favorite activity, it rewards them for their behavior and also teaches them about being independent.
- Be flexible: This is the most difficult part, but for parents, it helps them to stay adaptable, since life can be unpredictable and produce many challenges. Getting frustrated if things don’t go the way they’re planned will only make things worse. The schedule is only meant to make things easier and provide structure; if things do not go the way you want, it’s okay. Just try to be flexible for your child.