Summer break is a time for relaxation, vacations, and fun. However, for many children with autism and their families, summer break also means a transition from the structured schedule of the school year. This can prove difficult for children and families who rely on predictability and routine to help their children navigate their days. The following tips can help children cope with a more relaxed summer schedule:
Create a Consistent Schedule at Home
Children get used to daily predictability of the school routine. It can be very helpful to maintain as much of this schedule as possible, including when your child eats lunch, break/play time, structured activity time, and bedtime. To assist with this, it can be very helpful to create a visual of this schedule and post it for the whole family to see.
Prepare for Changes in Routine
It can be tough to stick to a schedule during the summer. Preparing your child for the possibility of changes in the schedule can help prevent meltdowns. For example, if you are planning a trip to the beach for the following day, it is important to discuss the possibility that the plans may change due to bad weather, and prepare your child with a plan B in case this occurs.
Limit Screen Time
Summer is often a time that parents must help their children stay engaged and entertained in activities. It is easy to fall back on electronics as a form of entertainment and occupation for your child. However, increased screen time often leads to increases in social isolation, as well as challenging behavior when limits are imposed on the electronics. Continue to use screen time as a reward for completing other activities throughout the day, and maintain your limits on the amount of electronic use allowed daily. A daily schedule of other activities can help your child make other choices for entertainment.
Maintain Consistent Behavior Management
Summer is a time when we all enjoy some rest and relaxation. However, it is critical to uphold the normal house rules over the summer. Inconsistent behavior management can actually increase anxiety and a sense of unpredictability in children. Maintaining consistent behavior management can actually provide a sense of consistency and security. And remember, rewarding appropriate behavior is more effective than punishing inappropriate behavior. Be on the look out for your child’s successes, and the whole family can enjoy the rewards!
Summer should be a time of relaxation and fun for the whole family. Planning ahead (while preparing for change) can go a long way in ensuring a safe and happy summer!