Preparing a child with autism for summer vacation


By: Nicole Williams

Summer is right around the corner and the east coast is preparing for days at the beach, vacations, barbeques, and plenty of fun in the sun. While summer can provide families with an opportunity for fun and a much needed break from the daily grind of school and work, this season also includes unique challenges. For a child with ASD, inconsistent schedules, high temperatures, and visits to new places can be especially difficult.  However, with a little preparation, parents and their children can enjoy the summer sun and breeze through the heat. Below are a few key tips to help ease the transition into summer.

  1. Maintain routines: During the school year, a child wakes up at a reliable time, goes to school (where they follow a schedule of daily activities), completes his homework, eats dinner, and finally finishes up the day with his regular bedtime routine. These routines fill much of your child’s time. Though your child may not be in school, maintaining daily routines will ease the transition into summer and be especially important when it is time to go back to school. Even adults may find it difficult to adjust from having a busy, filled schedule, to having an excess of free time. Routines such as chores, outside time, and bedtime can be kept throughout summer while still allowing for your child to enjoy their break from school.There are also plenty of activities to schedule throughout the summer to keep your child engaged and from becoming sedentary. For example, summer camps, sensory screenings at local theaters, and swim classes are great options. Feel free to ask your local Reaching Milestones’ office for more ideas.
  2. Be Proactive: When temperatures rise, even the best of us can find it difficult to be patient. Those of us in Florida and Georgia are all too familiar with the sticky and gross feeling that comes with being outdoors in the middle of July. While we may be able to recognize the need to go inside to cool off or to drink some ice water, your children may struggle to communicate this need. It’s important to watch your child for signs that they may be getting too warm and to make sure they stay hydrated. If you notice that your child is sweating and looking a little red from the sun, we recommend providing them a prompt to ask to cool off indoors or for some water. Other ways to stay prepared include having summer necessities on hand, such as water, sun screen, bug spray, and plenty of snacks. Not only will being proactive decrease chances that your child will engage in inappropriate behaviors because they are uncomfortable, but it can also keep them safe from summer dangers, such as heat exhaustion.
  3. Vacations: Trips to Disney World, Grandma and Grandpa’s house, or even just a weekend getaway to the beach can be a lot of fun, but it can be overwhelming for some children. Airports and theme parks are busy and crowded places. If your child has a history of being sensitive to loud noises, bringing ear plugs or head phones could set your trip up for success. Providing a tentative schedule of events for your trip can also be helpful for some children. Though it may be more difficult on vacation, keeping some of your child’s routine intact can help tremendously, such as naptime or bedtime. Another way to prepare for long trips is to prepare a travel bag for your child when they are in the car or on a plane. Fill this bag with coloring kits, books, small toys, snacks and other portable items to help keep your child engaged in appropriate behaviors.

By following these tips and preparing ahead of time, you and your family can make the best of summer. Most importantly, remember to enjoy any extra time you can spend with your family, take lots of pictures and make memories to last a lifetime. If you have any questions or specific concerns about summer and your child, please ask your therapists at Reaching Milestones. Now get ready for some fun in the sun!