Strategies for Making the Switch to Summer Easier for a Child with Autism
Therapies and Resources for Children with Autism & Families
While most students count down the days until summer vacation, for children on the autism spectrum, the major shift in routine can present challenges.
During the school year, a child with autism has a carefully planned and executed routine for every day of the week. The seasonal shift to longer, warmer days, no homework, and no classes can create stressors. In order to limit the stress a child feels during this transition, and to ensure the rest of the family isn’t affected, it’s important to implement some transition strategies to make the move into summer – and the following months go more smoothly.
Autism Transition Strategies
1. Simplify the Change
You know the summer is coming, so it’s important to continually remind your child that the daily routine will be shifting. Helping them anticipate the change is a great way to get them used to the idea before it happens. You can also inform any summer caregivers or therapy providers who will work with your child over the summer months, so they are aware of the changes your child will be experiencing.
Strategies to try:
- Create an information sheet for caregivers and tutors to use to help with the transition.
- Use pictures, a calendar or written schedules to show your child their new routine. Emphasize that while the routine is changing, they will still have a consistent schedule they can rely on.
- Offer a sneak preview ahead of time. Take your child to new locations that will be a part of the summer routine so they can get familiarized with the new place and people before the transition happens.
- Use countdown calendar or list as visual cues that change is coming. Also remember to use a timer when getting ready to leave; this is especially helpful when preparing to leave the house or switch between activities.
2. Fun in the Sun
With summer, comes heat. Changes in temperature can cause a difficult transition for children with autism. They are forced to deal with a new wardrobe and new expectations when leaving home. Ensuring that your child understands the shifts in weather can help to alleviate some of the stress involved with the change.
Strategies to try:
- Help your child choose weather-appropriate wardrobes and pack away winter clothes to prevent the temptation for them to choose warmer outfits they are used to wearing.
- When trying to apply sunblock, try using a spray and cream to see which is less irritating for your child. Try using a “massage” (more pressure) to rub in the cream versus a light touch and also provide distractions (favorite fidget or tablet) to make the process go more smoothly.
- Sit down with your child and go over safety guidelines with visuals for engaging in summer activities. Not only will this get them familiarized with things like bicycling and swimming, but it will ensure they know the rules beforehand. Then repeat daily.
3. Bedtime Routines
One thing that is easily forgotten in summer is that the days are longer. The additional daylight can have an effect on your child’s typical sleep schedule and mood. The best thing you can do is to try to keep the bedtime routine as consistent as possible to what it was during school. This will make the transition to summer easier and ensure they are ready when summer break is over.
Strategies to try:
- Invest in blackout curtains or use cardboard to prevent your child from being affected by the changing patterns of the sun.
- Keep a specific routine that includes showering, brushing teeth, books or stories, and or calming music. Maintain the same routine as often as possible.
Summer is meant to be a time for children to be outside, learn new things, and take a break from the pressures associated with school. With a little careful planning, you can implement autism transition strategies to make summer more enjoyable for your child and for the rest of your family.