If you are like me, the start of Summer brings a mixture of excitement and dread. Sunshine and popsicles- YEAH! Schedule changes and lots of extra free time- NOT yeah.
As the Momma of two autistic boys, I feel a deep empathy when they struggle during any big life transition. Even good change can be hard! For me, the best way to tackle fear of the unknown is by preparation. Sometimes over preparing is my own security blanket. Here are some things we do to prepare to make the transition to Summer easier.
COMMUNICATION: Talk about the upcoming change, using developmentally appropriate terms and any necessary visuals. This could be presented as a picture social story, a bullet pointed list of what’s happening and when, a calendar with changes recorded, and conversations. (Whatever is best for your particular learner.) Do this before the school year ends so the transition isn’t a shock. Even if a child can not ask questions, or verbally communicate, it’s important to still discuss this upcoming transition with them. My boys are now 12 and 10, and I realized years ago that they understood so much of what was being said, and what was going on receptively- even when they did not have the ability to talk.
Let them know what to expect, and what is expected from them. Talk over an anxieties. Share schedule changes with any other providers your child may still be seeing during the Summer so they can help ease the Transition, and understand why your child may be “off” when they see them.
STICK TO A SCHEDULE: Keeping a routine give children a sense of stability. It doesn’t need to be as structured as the school year, but could include a version of your child’s school schedule since they are already familiar with it. This can include bedtime and wake time, meals, bath routines, events you might attend during the week, Screen time, outside time, Summer school- or whatever it is you will be doing. I’ve found that even when we have large chunks of unscheduled time- it helps my boys if we come up with an unfancy written schedule of activities to help keep us all regulated and knowing what to expect- ie Tonight we are going to: watch TV, dinner, outside play. When the Summer begins, I also make a visual schedule and post it for the boys to view. We go over it when we discuss the upcoming changes, and also review it at night and in the morning until they know it by heart.
As a family, you can also schedule fun activities to look forward to, whether it be something big like a vacation, or something like a trip to the playground or the Zoo.
PICK ONE BIG THING TO WORK ON: Summer is a great time to tackle a skill, maybe one that you’ve been putting off because you didn’t have the time. What I’ve found most successful, is picking one area, and working on seeing that through- as opposed to feeling like- now that they are home more, we need to fix and do all the things. Too overwhelming for all of you. Things like: Potty Training, Dressing Independently, Brushing teeth, or accomplishing a household chore. Or you can ask your child’s Teacher or Speech Language Pathologist for suggestions on what to work on- it might be maintaining an IEP Goal or self help skill that you don’t want them to forget over the Summer.
GO EASY ON YOU: It takes time to adjust, and to come up with a new normal. it’s OK if it takes you all a few weeks to get settled. It’s an adjustment for everyone- even kids without learning or behavioral challenges. Talk through your anxieties with people who understand you. In no time, you will be enjoying your new Summer and the routine it brings.