Children who have been diagnosed with autism often have a hard time retaining skills during the summer break. Many parents try to keep their child on the spectrum on a schedule by enrolling them in summer school or extended school year, but this often is an abbreviated and less structured version of the school day.
Even when children are educated at home, summer often involves routine changes. Since your child with autism relies on consistency throughout their day, these routine changes can take a toll on them, cause stress and frustrations which can all lead to aggressive behavior.
Here are some ways to help your child with autism retain the skills they learned and stay consistent throughout the summer:
1. Work On their skills – To prevent regression, talk to your child’s teachers and therapists to understand what skills they are working on and how they are doing. Review their school progress reports, IEP, and information from their teacher on summer reading and work.
2. Practice Skills – Many of the skills your child with autism is working on can be integrated into their daily routine. Dressing, self-care, and behavior naturally occur during the day. Take time to use these natural occurrences as learning opportunities in their daily routine. Practice math and other skills by baking muffins and counting/measuring ingredients. Let your child on the spectrum mix the batter and pour it into muffin tins. Encouragethem to count as they go. Practice reading and listening skills during story time and focus on story comprehension by asking questions about the things going on in the book, a show, or just natural occurrences in their community.
Remember it is also important to build on existing skills and continue to review old skills as your child with autism continues to learn new things.
3. Appreciate Small Steps – It can be very frustrating for parents of children with autism when their child has a hard time learning a skill or takes a step backwards. Try to remember some skills take a while for some children to acquire and that each child and each situation is unique. Stay persistent, be patient and celebrate each small step forward with your child on the spectrum. It’s important to make sure your child feels confident and supported at every step.
4. Enjoy Summer fun! When your child on the spectrum is involved in educational programs, therapies, and activities, it can be easy to forget summer break is also for relaxing and having fun. Although working on skills is important, be sure to enjoy the fun things summer has to offer. Go to the beach, swim in a pool, splash in the sprinklers etc. Make sure summer isn’t only about building skills, but that it’s also about building long lasting memories.