I am very lucky that my daughter Kaitlin receives ESY services for most of the summer months, which allows her an extended school year when most others are on summer break.
There was a short break, however, which started with a half day of school. It is very difficult for our children to deal with change and a half day only disrupts the routine for many.
I must commend District 200 in Wheaton for changing that practice this year for their Special Education elementary students, BRAVO!
Anyway, one day later, we were already in the weeds (an old restaurant term), Kaitlin was hysterical, screaming, persevering and flapping to the point of exhaustion. I was in tears!
Why I was surprised I have no idea, this happens every year. I immediately looked up the Metra schedules to Chicago and spent several days wandering the streets and attractions reliving my youth. After all, I LOVED summer in Chicago, this must help my child right?
Although it did help immensely, I only had one week to fill, what about those children that do not receive summer services?
Children with autism need to be engaged consistently, many regress greatly over the summer months if programs and plans are not in place to continue practicing their skills, working on their goals and creating some sense of predictability.
Parents must plan (like for a major life event), honestly, it is that critical.
One of the most influential seminars that I ever attended in my young management years was from a very powerful inspirational speaker that taught me the 6 p's, Proper Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance. Although, a common marketing and management rule, it also speaks to us autism parents. I have been living by that adage for many years now.
So, here are my tried and true tips to help you and your child survive the summer:
Make a daily schedule, a list, just as you would for the grocery store, although much more detailed with approximated times for activities, naps, snacks and more.
Create a picture schedule and hang in a place where your child can easily view so they know what to expect. Review with them the day before or within a timeline that they may comprehend.
Create a social story for trips you plan to take, here is a free online guide:
If you are inclined to adjust your families sleeping schedule to stay up later in the evening, then keep it consistent throughout the entire summer.
If you follow any therapeutic homeopathy, dietary, supplementation or biomedical interventions, please continue to administer those without fail, regardless of your new schedule.
Attending fairs, backyard parties, remember your child's dietary plan, even one day off will affect them greatly!
Work on your child's IEP goals daily. This can be accomplished easily throughout your day if you plan.
List the goals, then search for daily routines, activities, outings etc, where you can practice them in real life! You would be surprised how many opportunities you have to practice with your child.
Strive to teach your child something new each day. Remember, you are also a teacher in addition to a parent in the summer months, you must go above and beyond what you normally do to teach your child and add a little extra each day.
Carve out some time every day to practice the skills your child has already acquired, and fine tune them. Our children tend to lose skills without consistent practice.
Make sure you have fun, after all, it is the summer months, time for family gatherings and crazy fun in the sun. Just remember that every activity is an opportunity to teach, practice and engage. You can do so while laughing, having fun and creating lifetime memories with your family.
Here is a helpful article from TACA http://www.tacanow.org/family-resources/during-summer-months/
And last but not least, don't forget about The Hideout,
School is out! “Now what do we do?”
Keep your children engaged this summer at “The Hideout”. We know how disruptive the summer months are for our children, even with some attending summer school there are always challenges. Without consistent focus and practice of skills, children tend to regress in several areas.
One of our missions is to engage children in meaningful play while in our center. Get the children away from the TV, computer and iPad and join us for some engaging fun! You’re the boss, tell us what you would like us to focus on with your child and we will do our best to provide an engaging and fun experience.
We have tons of new books, games, puzzles and engaging activities!
As always, we are passionately dedicated to supporting children and families with all special needs!
Check in with us often to learn about all the fun activities we have planned this summer, including "meet-up" events all over the suburbs and in Chicago!:)
Peace, love and happiness always friends!
Lisa is the owner of Kaitlin's Hideout, a play center for children with autism and a social, support and resource place for parents. www.kaitlinshideout.com