Given the nature of autism behavior, summer can actually be more difficult for kids with autism than most. In fact, many parents with kids who have autism dread the start of summer. Why? Summer wrecks with kids’ routine. Summer is full of endless days with nothing to do and no plan, no routine, no schedule. If there is one surefire thing you could possibly do to cause tantrums and bad autism behavior in kids with autism, it is to remove their schedule.
Beat the Summertime Blues
All year long, kids with autism can at least rely on a few simple things. The yellow school bus which takes them to school, their classes and activities during school, and the yellow school bus to take them home. Love them or hate them, at least they’re there. And having your day structured in some way, for a child with autism, is so much infinitely better than doing nothing.
So what do you do? Well, you have several options.
1. Extended School Year
Some schools will offer extended school year programs to those at risk for falling behind or those who need the extra enrichment and learning that extended school year programs provide. Many kids with autism need consistent learning or else they will start the school year way behind where they left off. They might even end the school year ahead, but they will forget all they learned during the summer and often regress without the structure that school provides.
Often, autism behavior that is problematic masks problems underneath – in this case, that the child needs more stimulation and engaging activities. Ask your special education teacher or principal about this option.
2. Summer Camps
There are, of course, also summer camps. There are dozens of different kinds of summer camps you could send your child to. Decide what is most important for you and your child. Do you want to work on social and communication skills in an autism focused environment? There are camps for that. Do you want to send your child to camp focused on his interests, such as a Lego camp, sports, or arts and crafts? There are camps for that.
Your local Town Recreation department usually has a selection of camps for kids in the summer at relatively low-cost. Often, they will even have summer camp programs designed for those with special needs. You can often get an aide to help your child participate in these activities. The key is planning ahead. Start early. Find out as early as possible in the year whom you will have to talk to and get permission from to get your child the services they need over the summer.
Doing so gives you the best chance of taking the negative autism behavior symptoms you often see in your child during the summer and turning them into positive ones.
Summer Camp Options
You can look at a site like autism.about.com/od/schoolandsummer/tp/camplistings.htm camps to find autism related summer camps that might be good for your child — or just talk to your local autism society chapter or doctor. Sometimes you can find a great program locally, and sometimes you have to travel for it. Such programs usually incorporate therapy, academics, social skills learning, fields trips and just plain fun into a smorgasbord for autism learning and increasing positive autism behavior.
3. Create a summer learning routine for your child
Learning does not have to stop just because school has. Many experts will recommend that you develop units of learning during the summer to enrich your child’s learning. In other words, make your home into a part-time school. Have theme weeks, such as learning about sea creatures with a trip to the aquarium. Learn about mammals and take a trip to the zoo. Take advantage of Internet lesson plans and learning resources.
Try to build a routine for your child over the summer so they will know what to expect. Designate some time each day for learning about a topic of interest to your child, then some time for an activity in the community like the swimming pool, the movies or a museum.
The nice things about museums are they often free or low-cost, and some have special programs for kids with special needs. Kids’ museums in particular sometimes have autism only days where kids with autism and their parents can have the whole place to themselves. This means they won’t have to explain autism behavior to others and can be free to express themselves however they want.
Get into arts and crafts, or develop new hobbies. Summer is a time for learning and exploring interests that there wasn’t time for during the school year. Just make sure there is some routine to all this, and you’ll be all set. Your child will be enriched, happy, and you will see positive autism behavior (less or no meltdowns, more engagement) if you find a way to engage your child in a routine this summer.
And for further tips and techniques to help children with autism live a happy and fulfilled life, go to the web site AspergersSociety.org and http://www.autismparenthood.com/. There you will be able to sign up for the free Asperger’s and Autism newsletter as well as get additional information to help your loved ones thrive on the autism spectrum.
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