Preparing for Summer Break
by Lee Stickle Director, TASN Autism & Tertiary Behavior Supports
Ready for a blissful summer?--a summer filled with happy kids who sleep in, get their chores completed, play with others and always seem to find something fun to do? Sure, that is every parent's dream! Actually, it is every child's dream, so what the heck goes wrong? Simple, we expect children (these folks are not miniature adults) to be able to organize and structure their time, engage in meaningful activities and get along with others, without help from adults. Wake up!! That isn't going to happen! Like the photo below, we should not be surprised when a child holding a lighter and a can of hairspray creates a flame thrower! For most children, and especially those with neurologic issues like Autism Spectrum Disorders, ADHD, Tourette's Syndrome, it is imperative that we provide the structure they need to be happy and healthy. Is it the school's job to help provide supports for those times outside of the school day or year? Whether or not you think it is your job, it certainly is in, not only the child's best interest, but yours as well. Remember, fatigued people make poor decisions; we start using the reptilian part of our brain to manage our environment. So what can we do?
1. Help parents develop a workable schedule and teach them to stick to the schedule. Make sure they incorporate the Premack Principle (alternating preferred with less preferred activities).
2. Summer, while it should be an enjoyable time, can provide an opportunity for children to learn! Think through the areas that the child routinely struggles and provide parents with some activities to address one or two of the areas. Be sure to also provide parents with 8-10 activities that the child enjoys and has mastered. Research supports providing challenging activities about 20% of the time and independent level activities about 80% of the time.
3. Encourage parents to find an activity that they can enjoy with their child. Parents of children with disabilities and children with disabilities deserve to have a family life; they deserve to develop parent-child relationships and create memories!
82 Summer Activities for Families with Special Needs:
10 Fun Activities for Children with Autism: