School is out in just a few weeks and summer is quickly approaching, which for many kids means going to summer camp. Here are some ways to prepare your child with autism for an amazing summer filled with fun camp activities and new friends.
1. Visit the camp before you sign up– Get your child on the spectrum familiarized with the camp you want them to attend. Plan a day where they can visit to see the facilities, meet the councilors, and ask any questions that you or your child might have. Unfamiliar places and situations can be very stressful, if you plan a visit before signing your child with autism up, you can prepare your child for what to expect. Since many children with autism are visual learners, it would be a good idea for you to take your camera and take pictures of the camp surroundings, and the schedule of activities and then create a story about what to expect.
2. Ask Your Child’s Opinion – It’s a good idea to involve your child with autism when planning to start a new camp program. Let them pick their own backpack and pack some of their favorite things from home to ease their stress levels. Use this as an opportunity to discuss the weather and appropriate clothes for activities. If there are choices for activities on camp enrollment forms allow them to have a say in what activities they want to participate in so that they will enjoy the experience.
3. Set Their Expectations – Be sure your child on the spectrum knows what to expect throughout their day and week at camp. Since schedules and activities at camp can be different daily, prepare your child with autism in advance for what each day holds for them. Explain to them when they will be dropped off, when they will you picked up, who they can expect to see, what they will eat (if you have that information) etc. All of this additional information should be included to help reduce any anxiety they may have.
4. Create Lasting Memories – Camp should b ea fun and exciting experience for children. It’s their time to enjoy the warm weather and the outdoors, but your child with autism might often forget the details of what they did while there. Camps often take pictures of children and email them to parents. These pictures are a great resource for creating a memory book to enjoy or a story to remind your child about camp. These are also great tools to use over and over again when prepare your child for camp again next year and for many years to come.
Going to camp is a way for your child on the spectrum to learn new things, create memories, and enjoy summer fun with old and new friends.
Although a fun experience in many ways, your child with autism may have a difficult time with new situations, people, and schedules. By preparing your child in advance with what they can expect, you are able to easy your child’s levels of anxiety and allow for them to truly enjoy their time off of school.