- Create a schedule for each day just like your son or daughter has at school, to help them know what to expect. For pre-readers, pictures are best. There are a variety of schedule apps available for the iPad, Kindle Fire, and phones. Many of them can incorporate photos, or provide the “First/Then” option for encouraging your child to tackle a tough activity, knowing that a preferred activity is coming. You can also go old school and use a plain paper schedule or calendar.
- Have a backpack with you always that has favored food, a change of clothes, and comfort objects. Don’t forget a spare cable to recharge electronics, ear protection, bug spray and sunscreen.
- Even fun things like a trip to the zoo can be stressful. Use photos and Social Stories to help prepare for outings. If you have never written a Social Story, you can learn about them at carolgraysocialstories.com. The website describes Social Stories as “A social learning tool that supports the safe and meaningful exchange of information between parents, professionals, and people with autism of all ages.” We use them to explain what’s coming, to reduce anxiety.
- Money to pay for activities can be a problem, especially if you don’t know that you will be able to stay for more than 10 minutes. Check out the list of free days available at local museums and attractions. Also check out local libraries- many now have a special needs story time.
- Remember to take things slow and follow your child’s lead. Have a plan “B” and try not to be upset if you have to leave quickly. Watch your child for signs that things are going sideways and leave before behavior escalates out of control. Don’t force a child to stay past their comfort level or you may end up dealing with a meltdown, which is no one’s ideas of a good time.
- Many people are drawn to water. Summer is a good time to teach swimming and water safety. If your child is not experiencing success in a regular swim class, talk to the instructor about options. Some clubs and many YMCAs offer adaptive swim lessons.
- Doing things for the first time can provoke fear and anxiety. Plan for some new things, but also have familiar favorite activities sprinkled through the schedule.
- Look for strengths and interests, and nurture them.
- Check for what is offered at your local public library and school rec program. Offer to attend with your child or send a therapist along if they will need a higher level of support than the program provides. Don’t drop your child off without letting the organizers know your child has a disability and what types of support they will need.
- Don’t forget to check out the Autism Society’s calendar for lots of great events, special needs hours, and activities!
Thanks to the Autism Society Milwaukee Chapter for these great suggestions!