There is no denying that having a child with autism adds a little extra effort to your already complicated life. When you’re raising a child with special needs, nothing is really ‘normal’ and it’s an anomaly when things ‘go as planned.’ Those of you that have attempted to plan family vacations, holiday get-togethers, and/or have had to prepare for the seemingly endless summer break, can probably relate. As soon as those final school bells ring, you’re upgraded from a part-time kid to a full-time kid; one that immediately reminds you that he/she requires precise structure and routine. After all, an unscheduled transition or less-than-desirable activity can quickly turn a pleasant day at the park into a game of “catch the crying kid as they sprint across a main highway.”
However, life is not as perfectly prearranged and structured as a child with autism (or any of us) would love for it to be. We can do our best to make life as comfortable and systematic as possible, but normalcy often turns into a fleeting wish. Any changes to a child with autism’s routine may trigger a tsunami-sized tantrum, so it’s important to plan, plan, and plan. Did I mention, planning? Plan every meal, plan breaks, plan playtime and down time. The more you can prepare your child for upcoming transitions and desensitize them to sudden ‘change’ the happier you both will be.
Another great tip is to break up long, difficult tasks with rest breaks and/or preferred activities. Likewise, if you have to say ‘no’ or come across a request that simply cannot be fulfilled, it’s always great to allow for a replacement. For example, telling your child that candy is not availably but a juice or fruit snack is available is a great way to transition your child to a different choice without incident.
Keep in mind, these tips are not limited to summer vacations and holidays. The best way to prepare your child for any upcoming changes (including returning to school) is to engage him/her in structured activities throughout the summer. A simple example is to use picture schedules or lists that will help transition your child from one activity to the next.
Regardless of your child’s need for structure, it’s completely reasonable to get outside and enjoy a beautiful summer day. Many local universities or colleges offer swim instruction courses for free or at a discounted price. Local YMCAs have personal assistance for special needs children in a variety of great activities like: soccer, basketball, and baseball.
As summer comes to an end you’ll want to prepare your child to return to school. Just as with any child, you’ll want to make sure that the transition back to school is an exciting activity. Go “back to school” shopping, pick out a cool avengers t-shirt, and continue your pre-planning to make this transition as successful as possible.