The summer holidays can be a time of excitement and relaxation for children, but for autistic children and their families, it can also present unique challenges. With changes in routine, sensory overload, and social events, it's important for parents and caregivers to provide support and create an inclusive environment during this period to empower them to have a positive and enjoyable experience.
Maintain a Structured Routine:
Autistic children often thrive in structured environments, and the disruption of a regular school routine during the summer can be unsettling. Establishing a consistent daily schedule can provide a sense of stability and reduce anxiety. Develop a visual schedule using pictures or symbols to help the child understand and anticipate daily activities. Include both structured activities and free time to maintain a balanced routine.
Our Now/Next/Then visual communication cards can be used to support communication between the adult and child. These cards are designed to help communicate which locations the child will be going to or would like to go to now, next and then. This increased understanding can help to reduce anxiety around transitions and visiting locations.
Create Sensory-Friendly Spaces:
Autistic individuals may have sensory sensitivities, making certain environments overwhelming or uncomfortable. Designating sensory-friendly spaces within your home or outdoor area can provide a retreat for the child. Consider factors such as lighting, noise levels, and the availability of calming activities or sensory tools, such as weighted blankets, fidget toys, or headphones
Engage in Special Interests:
Autistic children sometimes have deep interests in specific subjects or activities. Encourage and support their interests during the summer break. These interests can be used as motivators and opportunities for learning. Explore related books, movies, or outings that align with their passions. This not only provides enjoyment but also helps in building skills and expanding knowledge.
Plan for Social Opportunities:
While autistic children may find social activities challenging, it is important to provide opportunities for social interaction during the summer holidays. Arrange playdates or outings with peers who understand and accept the child's unique needs. Consider joining local support groups or organizations that offer inclusive activities for autistic individuals. Engage in activities that promote social learning, such as cooperative games or role-playing exercises.
Communication is crucial for understanding and meeting the needs of autistic children. Encourage the use of communication tools that suit the child's preferences and abilities, such as visual supports, sign language, or augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices. If your child is staying with relatives or friends encourage them to also use your child's preferred method of communication. Create a safe and open environment where the child feels comfortable expressing their thoughts and emotions. Practice active listening and provide support when needed.
Offer Predictability and Advance Preparation:
Transitions can be challenging for autistic individuals. When planning outings or events, provide predictability by sharing schedules, details, and expectations in advance. Use social stories or visual supports to explain what will happen, where they will go, and what is expected of them. This proactive approach can help reduce anxiety and increase the child's confidence in navigating new situations. Our Going Places Social Story below can help!
Embrace Nature and Outdoor Activities:
Nature can be a soothing and therapeutic environment for autistic children. Engage in outdoor activities that align with their interests, such as nature walks, gardening, or birdwatching. Being in nature provides sensory experiences, promotes physical activity, and offers opportunities for exploration and self-discovery. Remember to consider the child's sensory needs and adapt the environment accordingly.
Take Breaks and Practice Self-Care:
Supporting an autistic child during the summer holidays can be demanding, both physically and emotionally. It is essential for parents and caregivers to take regular breaks and prioritize self-care. Connect with support networks, seek respite care options, and engage in activities that recharge your energy and well-being. Remember, by taking care of yourself, you can better support your child.
Remember, each child is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. It's important to observe and understand the specific needs and preferences of the child you are supporting. If needed, seek input from professionals, such as therapists or educators, who can provide personalized guidance and support.
Autism Society. (n.d.). Tips for Making Summertime Fun for Kids with Autism. Retrieved from https://www.autism-society.org/tips-for-making-summertime-fun-for-kids-with-autism/
National Autistic Society. (n.d.). Supporting Your Child in the School Holidays. Retrieved from https://www.autism.org.uk/advice-and-guidance/topics/parents-and-families/summer-holidays
Social Thinking. (n.d.). Summertime Strategies for Supporting Individuals with Autism. Retrieved from https://www.socialthinking.com/Articles?name=Summertime+Strategies+for+Supporting+Individuals+with+Autism&utm_source=social&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=summer2021
The National Autistic Society. (n.d.). Outdoor Activities for Children and Young People on the Autism Spectrum. Retrieved from https://www.autism.org.uk/advice-and-guidance/topics/leisure/outdoor-activities
Thomas, S., & Brooks, C. (2018). Autism and the Transition to Adulthood: Success Beyond the Classroom. Springer International Publishing.
Zaks, Z. L. (2014). Life and Love: Positive Strategies for Autistic Adults. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.
Note: The references provided are a starting point for further exploration and research. It is always recommended to consult with professionals and trusted sources to obtain the most up-to-date and relevant information.