Beautiful Minds Blog

Practice and Consistency throughout summer break

Your child on the spectrum may have a hard time retaining the skills they acquired during the school year while in summer vacation. Many parents try to keep their child on a schedule by enrolling them in summer programs but this often is an abbreviated and less structured version of a regular 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 change can take a toll on them, cause stress and frustrations which can all lead to aggressive behavior.

Here are some ways to help they 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 mother skills by baking muffins and counting/measuring ingredients. Let your child on the spectrum mix the batter and pour it into muffin tins. I courage them to count as they go. Practice reading and listening skills during story time and 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 awhile 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. Swim in your pool, splash in your sprinklers etc and get out those water balloons! Make sure summer isn’t only about building skills, but that it’s also about building long lasting memories.

Teaching Your Child Water Safety

It’s summer! The sun is out, the weather is hot and besides begging for ice cream (and possibly some social distancing play dates), your kids can’t wait to get in the pool. Now that swim season is among us, it is important to discuss water safety and how critical it is for children with autism. Many individuals on the spectrum are drawn to water, some of whom are unable to understand the dangers associated with it.

It is never too early to start teaching your child the importance of water safety. It is good to expose them to water at a young age so they can become comfortable around it. The most obvious way to help prevent tragedy around water is to teach your child to swim or provide them with either public or private swim lessons.

There are several organizations that teach children with autism how to swim. It would be worth while to research an organization like this near you.. Remember that special needs swim lessons aren’t just about swimming itself, but about how to be safe around water.

If your child has not yet been exposed to water, it’s not too late to start. Since many children with autism are visual learners, use visuals like picture cards or social stories to teach rules related to water. Staying safe around water is about more than just the ability to swim. A second component is making sure your child with autism understand the importance of water safety. Even if your child on the spectrum is a capable swimmer, they may still have an attraction to water that can lead to dangerous situations – like a river with a strong current, a shallow pool or an unsafe temperature. Make sure your child understands all of the dangers associated with water.

Take precautions to prevent wandering towards water unsupervised. If your child is drawn to water, make sure to take the appropriate safety precautions to keep your child away from pools or other bodies of water. It is also a really good idea to let your neighbors know about your child’s attraction to water so they can be on alert as well. It is also important to let any first responders in the area know of your child’s special needs. It is a great idea to call them and ask them to send you an Autism Elopment Alert Form that you should fill out and get back to them.

Now that you have the information you need to keep your child with autism safe, enjoy the rest of this incredible summer season!


Help Your Child Navigate Their Feelings

Often times children who have been diagnosed with autism struggle to understand other people’s feelings and manage their own emotions. This lack of intuition can have a negative impact on their friendships, adult interactions, and their behavior throughout the day.

Some ways that will help you teach your child on the spectrum about facial expressions and emotions are through the use of flashcards, role play, the use of a mirror, and fun creative games that will grab their attention so that they can learn the differences between happy, sad, mad, etc.

The first step to helping your child on the spectrum understand how facial expressions portray actual emotions is to educate them on what facial expressions correlate with which emotions. You can do this by creating or purchasing flashcards, pointing out expressions in books, on TV or in the community.

Flashcards– these will help teach your child what facial expressions look like and what emotions go with each picture.

Images in books and on TV– this is a great way to practice what your child has already learned in the flashcards.

People in the community – by pointing out facial expressions on actual people you are able to discuss what they might be feeing and how it is affecting them. You can point out more than what their facial expression looks like, you can talk about their posture, their eye contact etc.; and how their overall body language is effected by how they are feeling.

Facial Expressions – Once your child, who has been diagnosed with autism, learns facial expressions and the body language that goes along with each emotion, you can start role playing situations. Role playing can lead to specific emotions and how people will react in specific situations. It is a fun way to practice identifying feelings, and can be group activity or a one on one game.

Creating Games -You can also make a game of identifying feelings by having your child on the spectrum practice facial expressions in a mirror. Name an emotion and have your child look in a mirror and create the expression that goes along with that emotion. Point out how their eyes, eyebrows, nose, and mouth change shapes as they practice different facial expressions. Take turns so that they can see how you would express different emotions. They will learn by watching what you do.

Art Projects – Art is a fun way to learn about facial expressions. Have your child, who has been diagnosed with autism, draw or paint a picture showing people with different feelings, or work with them to create a collage of emotions. Cut out sets of eyes, eyebrows, mouths, and noses. Have your child on the spectrum put faces together showing emotions.

Learning to read facial expressions is important for social interactions. When your child on the spectrum can identify how a friend, classmate, sibling, parent, or person in the community feels, they can respond appropriately.