As parents and caregivers we often look forward to summertime with a mix of excitement and anticipation, along with feeling overwhelmed and maybe a tinge of dread. A whole summer of our children, without school, to build family memories together! Wait?! The whole summer…how are we to fill the time with meaningful, enriching activities our kids will actually enjoy?! And, let’s not forget, spend quality time together without losing our own sanity! Having children with learning differences, such as those who are on the Autism spectrum, can provide a bit of a twist to summer plans, but you can be just as successful pulling off a fantastic season. Here are a few things to get you started with our guide to Aspergers parenting summer ideas.
As with all children, there are no sure-fire solutions for all children with Aspergers to enjoy the summer. Please consider your knowledge of your child’s interests and abilities when planning activities. Children who are on the Autism spectrum in particular have difficulty with transitions, struggling to start new activities or switch from one schedule to another. All children, regardless of learning differences, thrive with routine and boundaries. Remember this and talk through your summer plans with your son and/or daughter, to help them prepare for the changes ahead. Start the summer conversations early and walk through “social stories” that will help them establish expectations about the activities you are planning. This will give them opportunities to discuss any questions with you, address fears and anxieties ahead of time as much as possible, as well as establish something to look forward to! Talk about the locations you will visit, what they may encounter there, any new sensory expectations (such as new/loud sounds, bright/flashing lights, strong smells, crowds, etc), and a general schedule for the activities. With solid preparation, you can help your child transition to their summertime schedule with minimal adversity.
Several fun and memorable activities can tap right into helpful sensory stimulation (or lack thereof) so that children with Aspergers and otherwise on the Autism spectrum are able to not only enjoy the experience but gain from it as well. A good old fashioned trip to the pool can be very helpful considering the overall sensory experience. The water provides physical resistance, temperature variation, and the sensation of wet vs. dry to create a dynamic learning experience. Swimming is also less stressful on the body than other forms of athletic exercise but still keeps the heart rate up for toning, cardio, and respiratory improvements. Trampoline parks are great for friends and families to enjoy together and also provide inner-ear or vestibular stimulation. This type of stimulation can be both “calming for the over-responsive or sensory seeking child” and stimulating for those who are “under-responsive”. Want to check out the latest movie release but concerned how your child will do in the theater? AMC theaters has partnered with the Autism Society to provide sensory-friendly movie options at select theaters nationwide. During these showings, the lights are turned up and the sound is lowered to be friendlier for those with sensitivities. Movie-goers are also allowed to get up, walk around, sing, and dance during the showings.
Aspergers Meet Ups
Parenting is tough, and the challenges that come with raising a child with learning differences can make the experience feel overwhelming at times, less enjoyable, and isolating. It is important to connect with others who understand the unique needs of families of children with learning disorders. This can provide an intro for lasting friendships, a few laughs, resources, and a sense of community. Members in meet up groups can have great suggestions for Aspergers parenting summer ideas. Getting out and introducing your child to new settings and people can help build social skills. Parents and caregivers modeling the courage and other skills needed to get out and meet people can be beneficial for children to observe and implement themselves. Check out local social media groups, YMCAs, or connect with your child’s school for recommendations. Several websites exist solely as meetup resources and can connect you with potential local groups, such as https://www.meetup.com/topics/asperger-syndrome/.
Work on Social Skills
Help your child expand his or her social skills by joining local teams, such as youth soccer, swimming, ultimate Frisbee, etc. These types of activities teach your child how to negotiate relationships with peers, become part of a team, follow direction, establish focus, the importance of practice, and how to win/lose gracefully. Team sports also provide an athletic outlet for your child, encouraging him or her to get quality physical activity and in turn enhancing sleep. If your child isn’t ready for team sports, consider some type of group lessons such as ninja classes, gymnastics, tennis or golf. For those who are parenting teenagers, encourage your child to apply for a summer job to learn responsibility and gain social skills. Help your child complete a resume and deliver to various local employers who advertise summer openings. This can be quality time with you as well as model how to gain employment.
Summer and Day Camps
As our awareness of Autism and Aspergers has increased, so have our resources for children wishing to experience enhanced summer classics, such as summer camp. There are options across the country for children with Aspergers who would like a traditional summer camp experience but need specialized attention. These camps range from mainstream camps who accept both campers who are neurotypical and those with learning differences, to specialized camps focused on delivering a unique camp experience those with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). Families can find accredited summer camp programs through various online directories, one such is the American Camp Association http://find.acacamps.org/ .
Specialized camps for children with Aspergers provide high-quality programming in a safe and nurturing environment, where staff have been trained in working with children with ASDs and fellow campers are similarly abled. Many children feel more accepted and free to be themselves at specialized programs whereas they may find their peers at mainstream camps more judgmental and staff may be unsure how to respond to their unique needs. Camps utilize pristine outdoor settings to build confidence and self-esteem in the youth who attend, teach responsibility, and encourage athleticism all while building lasting friendships.
If week-long programs sound too far off for your child, consider local day programs specializing in Aspergers. Contact your child’s school counselor, resource office, and/or pediatrician to discuss options. You can also join family groups on social media sites to get recommendations of local day camps. If you are interested in learning more about summer camp options for youth with Aspergers and Autism, please contact us at Talisman Camps today! We’d love to discuss our programs with you and help you find a great fit for your family.
Additional resources – https://autismtherapies.com/planning-fun-summer-activities-for-children-with-autism/