Transitioning Children with Autism to New Summer Routines
Transitions are a normal part of life for most people, as changes in school and work routines requires them to stop doing one thing and start doing another. People with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) may have more difficulties with these changes in routine. These difficulties may be the result of a greater need for predictability, trouble understanding what activity will be coming next or uneasiness when a familiar pattern is disrupted.
Transitioning to new summer routines can be difficult for children with autism because the kids become comfortable with their daily schedules. There are a few ways parents and caregivers can help autistic kids transition into summer schedules.
Tips for Transitioning to Summer Schedules in Houston
- Create a schedule that works for a “typical day” in the summer. For best results, the typical day itinerary should closely resemble a school day routine, with similar sleep schedules, mealtimes, and breaks. The schedule should be specific enough to fit the child’s needs, and may include details such as brushing teeth and nap times. Write the schedule on a white board and keep in plain view for easy reference.
- Write “typical days” on a calendar, along with weekends, vacations, holidays and special events. Having the month in clear view helps a child know what daily schedule to expect in the coming days and weeks.
- Stay strong on house rules. It can be so tempting to loosen up and let kids have extra screen time, stay up late, or indulge in extra snacks during the summer. Being lax on the house rules and deviating from established routines may cause a child with ASD to feel overloaded and lead to behavioral problems. Maintaining strict rules, even in the summer, can help a child transition to a new summer routine.
- Check with local parks departments and libraries for special events for kids with ASD. These events typically feature music, reading, and structured activities.
- Keep things positive by rewarding good transitional behavior instead of punishing outbursts. Reward good transitional behavior with stickers that the child can save then redeem for a special one-on-one summer game with a parent, for example, or by awarding the child with the honor of choosing the night’s dessert.
- Be prepared to prevent small problems from turning into major meltdowns. An activity may take longer than anticipated to begin, for example, or a venue may not serve food a child wants. Be prepared with alternate activities to avoid frustration and boredom during downtimes, and keep a stash of favorite snacks on hand.
- Have a Plan B in case Plan A does not work out. Talk about Plan B whenever discussing Plan A. This teaches children with ASD that changing plans are not the end of the world. It also shows kids the importance of having a backup plan.
- Look for signs of overload, which can happen even when a child is having fun splashing in the pool or bicycling with friends. These situations may cause sensory overload that can lead to outbursts and other behavioral issues.
Have fun. Kids with autism work hard throughout the year and so do their parents. Summer fun helps families bond together.