Beautiful Minds Blog

Preparing Your Child For Summer Camp

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.

Understanding The Feelings Of Your Child With Autism

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.

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.

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.

Bring out their creativity by making a game of identifying feelings. Art is a fun way to learn about facial expressions. Have your child, who has ben 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.

How To Create A Consistent Schedule For A Child With Autism

When your child in the spectrum follows a daily schedule and knows what to expect throughout  their day, it will help make transitions and activities easier and less stressful.

Here are some great benefits to putting your child with autism on a consistent schedule:

1. List Activities throughout the day – Make a list of the activities you would you’re your child on the spectrum to accomplish throughout their day. Place them by order of necessity and then importance and map out approximately how long each activity will take. You can start your list as early as waking up in the morning, getting dressed, brushing teeth etc. and finish as late as going to bed at night. Then factor everything they do in their day and fill it in the rest of their day. When accounting for activities be sure to stagger breaks or fun activities into the day, and also show them when they have completed an activity by crossing it off their schedule.

2. Create a Format for Your Schedule – Choose a schedule format that your child with autism will relate to of have fun with. If they like lists, create a schedule that looks like a list. IF they are more visual, create a schedule that has images on it. Pictures or drawings can also be helpful for your child if they are not able to read yet.

3. Hang the Schedule where they can see it – Put the schedule in a place where your child on the spectrum can easily access it. Whether they are looking up to see what is next, or it is their job to cross of what is already been completed. The more visible the schedule is, the less.

guessing your child with autism will have to do.
4. Create a Schedule that offers them Choices – Everyone likes opportunities to make their own discussions. Your child on the spectrum is not different. Find opportunities for him or her to choose what they want to do and put the option into their schedule. This option is best used for fun activities, etc.

5. Planning is Never Perfect!- Remind your child that the times you have written down (unless it’s school hours, dinner time, or times revolving planed events ; are estimated and can shift a little. Remind them constantly that although the schedule is important, it is made as a guideline and has the possibility of changing once in a while.

Schedules create a sense of consistency and security in a child who has been diagnosed with autism. When your child knows what activities are part of their day, transitions can become easier and less stressful.