The school year is almost over, and summer vacation is about to start. This is a big change for any child, but for an autistic child, the variation from their daily routine can be especially upsetting. It can also be a challenge for parents and caregivers, as they will have to come up with and introduce a new daily schedule, and provide meaningful and engaging activities for the next several months.
Preparing ahead of time is always best, of course. This may come naturally and easily to some, but for others, it may be a daunting assignment. Circumstances are a factor also. There may be other siblings in the equation, finances are tighter for some than for others, there’s work to be done, both at home and in the workplace, and the list goes on.
For me, keeping things simple and functional helps me to avoid that overwhelming feeling that tends to paralyze me when there just seems too much to do. I also like to use checklists. It feels great to check off those boxes, even if it’s just one or two at a time. It gives me a feeling of accomplishment, and that even if not everything is done at least I’ve done something.
I created a sample checklist that can be used to prepare for summer vacation. Of course, it can be adapted to accommodate the unique needs of each family and child, but perhaps it can serve as a good idea or starting point.
My Summer Checklist
Things to ask the teacher:
- Three assignments/goals that would be good to work on during the summer months.
- Any leftover extra worksheets or workbooks that could be sent home?
- Any tips/strategies to use at home that worked well at school?
- Recommendations for summer programs and activities in the area.
- Email addresses or phone numbers of the parents of children in the class to set up play dates.
Things for me to do to prepare:
- Collect ideas for arts and crafts and put the needed materials in a box for easy access.
- Prepare outside activity gear and make them easily accessible, i.e. swimming gear, baseball gloves and balls, bike gear, Frisbees, etc.
- Organize any school assignments, worksheets, and books.
- Make a list of possible outings/activities to keep on hand, including locations and admission costs, and pencil in outing dates on a calendar.
- Prepare a reading list or a box of books to read through during the summer months. Keep a reading log.
- Have a reward box with small prizes to encourage completing assignments or reaching goals. The Dollar Tree is a great resource!
- Draw up a list of fun activities to do together. This can include gardening, making a bird feeder, cooking or baking, swimming lessons, visiting someone, etc.
Things to do to prepare my child:
- Talk about and/or write a social story about summer vacation and the last day of school.
- Prepare a new daily visual schedule for the summer days. (Remember to schedule outside activities during the coolest part of the day.)
- Talk about and/or write a social story about both set activities and surprise activities that will happen during the summer.
- If a vacation or a trip is planned, mark it on the calendar, talk about it, and/or write a social story with pictures of what will happen and where we will be going.
- Ask my child for their ideas and wishes, too, and include their requests in the planning as much as possible.