School's out. What now? Summer break is officially, here. Many parents look forward to spending more time with their kids, but children on the spectrum often depend on the structure provided by the school as part of their routine. Structure and routine are synonymous with comfort and security. Provide it, and life is predictable and manageable. Withdraw it (as happens every year in June) and the world turns upside down. When children with autism feel stressed and anxious, they typically show their feelings through behaviors that can be difficult or even impossible to manage. Here are some alternatives to keeping the structure of school going when its something you know your child needs.
Your autistic child might benefit from a similar structure that is normally provided by the school. Not only does school provide a predictable routine, but many schools provide counseling and other forms of support for your child during your usual "working" hours.
Summer Programs and Extended School Years
School isn't necessarily out for summer for everyone; Summer programs are an option, although these usually need to be signed up for in advance of the end of the school year. Summer School may also provide a counseling element that your child is used to, especially if that is something is normally provided for them. Look into what options are available in your community.
Summer Time Activity Groups
Summer Time Children's Programs, such as Little Red Hen's Not Your Garden Variety Theater, are also a possibility. These summer programs are meant to engage social skills and encourage peer interaction, and most importantly combat boredom.
Tips for a stress-free Summer
Whatever your summer game plan is going to be, a little bit of planning ahead, even if you sign up late can help your child on the spectrum get used to his or her new summer routine.
Plan Ahead. If you are reading this, chances are you didn't already have a plan for summer in place, but planning ahead is always a good idea. Regardless of what and when your child's summer entails, outlining the schedule (and all that comes with it) for the next three months will lessen the headache for a lot of you.
Explain to them why it's a good idea. Autistic kids care about the why just as much as the what. Instead of your child going into an energy drink coma, explain to them why you are planning summer activities for them.
Let Your kids know what the new routine will be. Boys and girls on the spectrum usually find comfort in predictability. Let them know the when and where of what their new summer schedule will be, with time estimates if possible.
Keeping the structure going in the summertime helps to encourage your child to maintain a regular sleep schedule during the summer months and will reinforce those social skills and cues learned during the school year.