Helping Children with Autism Maintain Skills in the Summer

Categories: ASD and DD, Child-focused

Summertime can be difficult for families of children with autism and other developmental disabilities. With the end of the school year, there may be limited opportunities for your child to continue working on academic or social skills. In addition, while your child seems to have endless free time, you may feel like you have very little.
What can you do to ensure that she maintains her hard-earned skills during the summer months?
Although it is tempting to allow her to have more free time, try to maintain a routine in the morning and around mealtimes. If she is independent with her morning and bedtime routines during the school year, encourage her to continue to perform those routines independently. For many children, regularly scheduled activities provide much-needed structure and a way keep track of time.
Create a simple schedule with a list of chores and have her help around the house using skills she has already acquired. Perhaps she can help you wash dishes, do laundry, or assist with simple and safe yard work. If she is able, let her do her chores in succession, making sure she is supervised as necessary.
If possible, provide your child with opportunities to be with peers and practice her social skills. This can be challenging even during the school year. If peers are not easily accessible, you may need to put in extra effort to be in the community. Increasing your child’s opportunities for socialization at home may also be helpful. Playing games that require taking turns, or, if she is able, asking her to talk about the things that have happened in a day can help her practice a number of important social skills.
Consider enrolling your child in a camp or other activity such as swimming lessons or horseback riding specially designed for children with special needs. Getting your child involved in new activities that are compatible with her abilities may help her practice difficult skills and discover something new that she enjoys doing.
It may take time to get your child involved in a new and unfamiliar activity. Initially, you may need to just have her be present to watch an activity. Over time, you can attempt to try to increase her participation. In some cases, you may want to hire a helper to assist you with this effort.
Helping your child maintain her existing skills and learn new ones during the summer months will be well worth the time and money invested – especially if your efforts result in an easier and more successful transition back to school in September.
By Sarah Helm, M.A., BCBA, LABA
May Institute is an award-winning nonprofit organization with more than 65 years of experience in serving children and adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other developmental disabilities, brain injury and neurobehavioral disorders, and other special needs. May Institute operates four schools for children and adolescents with ASD and other developmental disabilities, including one in West Springfield, Mass. For more information, call 800-778-7601.