Optimistic Parenting: Autism and recommendation for the summer time holidays
We are now deep into the kids summer vacation. Many families look forward to a departure from the routine and consistency that school offers. Because schedules and routines are disrupted, families of children and teenagers with autism can struggle. Every child has unique strengths and needs. With a little preparation, the stress of vacation can be reduced. Here are some practical tips to help children and adolescents with autism who are faced with changed processes during the summer vacation.
1. Preparation is critical for children and teenagers with autism. When a new event or excursion is coming up, you can:
Use a calendar: a visual aid that shows when an event is scheduled can be used to prepare your child. The important thing is not to plan too much in advance. For some children, a few days’ notice makes all the difference. Others require a few hours’ lead time. Either way, talking about an upcoming event in advance will greatly reduce anxiety and help transition to a new environment.
Use visual aids: These can aid communication through routines. You can use them in your own home or when planning trips away from home. Depending on your child, the visual elements could include drawings, photos, and pictures on phones. It is important to take into account your child’s attention to detail as the image you use may differ from the actual location, which can cause excitement.
Tell a story: Developing social stories can aid your child’s understanding and prepare them for an upcoming event or outing.
2. When visitors call home or you plan to visit other people’s homes, you can:
* Show photos in advance of relatives and visitors passing by during the holidays.
* If your child is struggling in noisy or busy environments, find a quiet place in your home or wherever you visit.
* Have games, activities, or favorite toys ready.
* Before visitors call, consider potential meltdown triggers. Some of these could be toy sharing, other children with their belongings and the noise level. Preparing for such situations can reduce your child’s anxiety.
* Interacting with visitors can lead to breakdowns. When visitors come in, sometimes it is best to allow your child to follow their own lead.
3. If you are vacationing or flying overseas while restrictions are being relaxed, you can:
* Have your child’s favorite foods, books or toys ready while you are driving or flying
* If you are flying, check to see if your airport has a dedicated utility program. Many Irish airports have visual flight schedules developed on their websites and have specific assisted processes to assist with the transition through the airport.
The key message is: plan ahead.
Preparation is the key to success during the holiday season. Remember the words: first, next, done. These give the activities a structure and sequence. Identify your child’s triggers and create a plan should your child experience a meltdown or overstimulation. Check the autism parenting forums on Facebook and Irish autism websites for autism friendly days in various locations around town. Finally, focus on the achievements and celebrate them!
This article was contributed by a member of Parenting Limerick. Parenting Limerick is a network of parent and family support organizations. Further information can be found at asiam.ie or loveparenting.ie.