It’s the time of year when you start thinking about transitioning your child, who has been diagnosed with autism, from their summer schedule to their school schedules. Since routines provide structure that many children on the spectrum need, here are a few strategies and ideas for developing routines that will help children cope with schedule changes.
Expected and unexpected routine changes are part of life. When your child’s schedule is about to change, it is very helpful to know the proper techniques to use to help them transition easily. The best tools to help develop a routine or cope with schedule changes are visual aids. Many children, who have been diagnosed with autism, benefit from a picture or written schedule that indicates the sequence of activities they should expect each day. Such tools provide reminders to help children transition smoothly from one activity to another.
A consistent routine at home, and in the classroom is important to help children on the spectrum. Drastically varying the order or time certain activities happen can cause tremendous stress for children, who have been diagnosed with autism, because they crave and thrive on consistency. With expected changes, take the time to speak to your child on the spectrum about what to expect and when to expect it. Create a chart or mark off a calendar, when summer comes to an end and the school year is beginning. By doing this your child understands that the routine they have gotten used to will change in a given amount of time.
Help your child successfully transition to a new routine by keeping your home, and their belongings organized. When it is easy for your child on the spectrum to find what they need for their new or changing routine, they feel more at ease with the changes happening in their life. Allowing your child to bring a security item (toy, blanket, picture) with them the first few days of a new routine, until they get used to it, will also elevate stress and help them transition.
The weather is warm, school is out and there is a multitude of fun to be had! Make the most of summer break by helping your child on the spectrum have fun and learn new things.
1. Enjoy the Outdoors – The sun is out, it’s warm outside, so why not enjoy outdoor activities. Enroll your child in swim lessons; join sports camps or group activities.
Encourage your child to participate in fun activities where they can meet new people and make new friends. If your child on the spectrum is hesitant to try something new, maybe one of their peers wants to join in the fun with them to make the transition a little less stressful for them. Your child may be more interested in an activity if they have a friend to team up with. Doing outdoor activities is a great way to spend quality time with your children and show the importance of physical fitness. Take an evening walk or bike ride with your child on the spectrum and explore the beauty of nature in your community. Make summer picnics in the park and read stories or watch your child enjoy the playground…the options are limitless.
2. Stimulate Your Child’s Creativity – There are many fun art projects and activities that your child with autism can participate in that allow them to be creative during their summer break. Depending on what your child is interested in, you can build models, paint paintings, go online and print free games, color in coloring books etc. Take advantage of some of the online resources available to come up with some fun art projects or experiments your child on the spectrum will enjoy To locate activities, search the internet using keywords like ‘children’s art activities’, “kid friendly science projects” etc. If your child with autism enjoys a more social environment, look up some local art classes for their age group and sign them up for art or pottery classes.
3. Plan Play Dates – Whether your child is in camp or at home, it is important for them to stay in touch with friends from the school year in order to maintain relationships and to continue to develop social skills. Plan dates in the park, at a playground, at each other’s homes…it doesn’t matter as long as they are interacting with each other. This allows them to play, have fun, work social skills, conflict interaction and more.
Summer camps, educational programs, and trips are also a great way for your child on the spectrum to spend time during their summer vacation. Don’t forget to enjoy the warm weather with your child as well with some relaxing and educational activities and games that are family friendly. It’s important for you as a parent to work with your child on the spectrum and prepare them for new experiences in a fun and personal way