As the school year comes to an end, those of us who have autistic children in school are aware of this one looming thing.. Summer vacation is swiftly approaching. For us, that leaves a slight gap between the school year ending and the extended school year beginning.
Those few weeks of time? Sometimes they petrify me.
Merely because, I know it’s all on me. I know that I’m the one responsible for providing all of the structure for my child.
This shouldn’t be scary though, you know? I shouldn’t be fearing that the summer is approaching. I shouldn’t resent the summer vacation. I already know why our routine matters and I already know how to structure our days.
How to Create Summer Structure for Your Autistic Child
We already know that our autistic kiddos function better with structure and routine. Why would this magically go away just because the summer has started? Even if your children will not be home with you all day, having a simple schedule in place can do a world of good.
But what do you include in this summer schedule?
- Weekly activities (including blocks of free time)
- Morning routine
- Afternoon routine
- Evening routine
- Weekend routine
What to include in your summer routine
Ideally, your summer routine will look similar to your child’s school year routine. Of course, the main difference? Your child isn’t at school.
So what do you do now? Do you fill in the summer days like you would a school day?
That really depends on your child and what they need.
For some children, they may have extreme difficulty with having academic related work at home. And unless you’ve established that yes, you can do school work at home, they may not accept this right away.
I know it sounds unlikely, but it was one of those things that I ran into with my daughter. She is very compartmentalized so certain things just did not happen at home. That was until we introduced it with a visual schedule and then she was more willing to accept the concept.
What about the summer slide and my autistic child?
If your child is attending an extended school year program, this shouldn’t be an issue. It should be included in your child’s regular IEP though some of the goals will look different. For example, with my daughter, the summer was more for social skills and making sure that her speech therapy services were delivered at the same frequency.
For children who aren’t in an extended school year program, the summer may be a good time to introduce a “loose” afterschooling program. Then you can determine what to work on in terms of functional life skills, functional academic skills, or both. For example, you can incorporate learning sign language or basic cooking skills in a more controlled environment (ie: your kitchen).
Sensory bins are a great way to introduce or reinforce existing academic skills and should be included in your child’s choices on their summer schedule.
You can also try fine motor worksheets if your child responds better to those.
Summer Activities and Ideas for Autistic Children
One of the best things about the summer? The warmer weather usually means more opportunities to play outside. Granted, for some kiddos this may be a bit of a sensory overwhelm. And for other kiddos, this is very welcomed sensory input.
Summer is a great time, I think, to balance screen time. Sometimes, especially during those hotter days, there’s nothing wrong with some structured screen time. Other times, you may just want to limit that.
If that’s the case? Be sure to indicate this on your child’s schedule. You can make screen time a structured activity or offer it as a free-choice activity.
The summer may also be one of the best times to look into swimming lessons for your autistic child. So many of our kiddos on the spectrum love the water. But, not all of them are always aware of basic water safety. If this is a concern for your child, reach out to your local community and see if they offer reduced or free swim lessons.
The sky is potentially the limit when it comes to developing a summer routine that works for your autistic child.
What does your summer routine look like?