Summer is well under way and along with the joy of a lighter schedule comes the challenge of navigating so many unscheduled, unpredictable, and unexpected elements of the season.
Here are some helpful tips for planning your family’s summer activities that we hope will help create more fun and reduce the stress:
Maintain Some Structure
Try to maintain your child’s typical eating and sleeping schedule as much as possible. It’s not easy to stick to a schedule during summer, especially as this is a time when you want to let go a bit and relax. If you can maintain the basic structure of your child’s routine, you are less likely to have an overwhelmed child and the disruptive behavior that results.
Theme Park Programs
Visiting theme parks is a summertime family favorite, but it also can bring a host of challenges for any child on the spectrum. Many parks offer Ride Accessibility Programs or Fast Pass programs for individuals with disabilities. If this is not an option for your family, there are other strategies such as planning your route ahead of time, splitting up (one parent goes with one child to an attraction while the other parent goes with another child to a different one), and bringing noise cancelling headphones to give your child a sensory break, etc.
Prepare in Advance
Travel requires specific preparation for children on the spectrum. It is important to familiarize your child ahead of time with the destination using photographs, videos etc. If your child has never flown or stayed in a hotel before, practicing these on a small scale (a one-hour flight first and a one-night stay at a local hotel are a really good idea).
It is really important to understand a lot about where you will be staying during your vacation and the level of security of those locations. For example, if you are renting an apartment or home, it is critical that you check that each door has a lock and that the perimeter of the house is secure. Check whether your child can exit the location unassisted and be aware of what you need to do to secure the premises.
It Takes a Village
While vacationing, introduce your family. Families who share with those around them, (especially in unfamiliar places like vacation destinations) about their child’s special needs tend to experience a more accommodating and supportive community. Helping others understand how they can help, can make your experience more relaxed and enjoyable.
Get Support From Your Team
Remember to use what works for your child while planning your family’s activities. If you are working with an ABA provider, ask for assistance with goals that support a specific outing or trip.
Here are some additional resources to help make your season great for the whole family:
- Autism Speaks:
- National Autism Society: Big Red Safety Toolkit – to prevent wandering
- Pathfinders for Autism: Parent Tips: Summer Camp