Although students with ASD often have challenges at school, they are also often quite supported by the structure and routine that school provides. For many, summer is a time of unpredictability and uncertainty. This can create anxiety and contribute to a number of challenging behaviours.
Here are some tips that may help your family and your ASD child cope with the summertime blues:
- Get a calendar that can be used with your child. Large wipe off calendars are fun to use and available at most stationary stores. Use different colored markers to write down special events, vacations or trips. Use other colors to alert the child that nothing is planned yet for particular days. Mark off days when the child may be in daycare or participating in lessons or other activities. Post the calendar where your child can see it and talk about it often with him.
- Create an “oops” or “oh oh” icon or symbol that you can use to let your son or daughter know that a change in plans must be made. Put the symbol on the calendar and show him as soon as possible that you must make a different plan.
- Create a list of “rainy day” or “change of plans” activities. Make them special, that is, things you wouldn’t play with, use or do everyday. Some parents we know create a “rainy day box” which contains items from the dollar store that will amuse their son or daughter when there is a day when plans have to change.
- Create a sample schedule for what an “unstructured” or “unplanned” day might look like. Include options and choices so your child is not left with the total uncertainty of a “blank slate”.
- If you travel, take the calendar with you. Engage your son or daughter in a daily ritual of looking at the calendar and counting days as they go by. Don’t forget to have a few favorite items or sensory supports with you on your trip to ease the stress of travel.
- Don’t forget to make time for yourself. If you are working and taking care of your family and your child with ASD, it’s important for you to find time to relax and enjoy the summer yourself. A “mini vacation” of an hour or two a week away from typical demands can help rejuvenate you and improve your resiliency.