Summer break is just around the corner. Your child or teen with Asperger's syndrome (AS) may have done fine throughout the school year, but you are worried about what will happen with the long, unstructured days of summer. As with many transitions, the move from school to summer vacation can create problems.
The following tips can help you prepare for the upcoming summer break so you and your child can enjoy the warm, sunny days:
If you are planning a summer vacation away from home, include your children in the planning phase. Getting their ideas on what is fun and what they want to do. This can make sure each person in the family has something to look forward to during the vacation.
Talk to your child about what he or she thinks should and will happen during the summer. Find out if he has any goals or specific things he would like to do. This can be attending a camp, learning something new or simply taking a break from school and hanging around the house. Knowing what your child expects and wants from summer break can help you better plan activities.
Create a daily routine and talk about household rules. Although summers are notoriously more flexible and less structured, your Aspie probably still needs some structure. If you work and your teen is going to be home alone most days, find some activities to keep him busy. This can be daily chores, specific times for video games or a day-camp program. Structure helps your Aspie feel more in control and may limit meltdowns or angry outbursts.
If you plan family activities, let your Aspie know ahead of time what is going on and what is expected of him. Explain the schedule, who will be there, what you will be doing. Aspie's usually react better when they know exactly what to expect. Use a family calendar to mark activities to help your Aspie emotionally prepare for the event.
Don't overwhelm your Aspie with activities. While you may want to introduce new experiences or work on improving certain behaviors, remember, it is better to do so gradually rather than overwhelming or overstimulating your child. Make sure you include "down time" for your Aspie to do nothing or to be home where he doesn't need to worry about interacting with other people.
Remember, many Aspies prefer to be alone, at least some of the time. For some Aspies, the school year is stressful, they are constantly around crowds of people and the summer break allows them time to get away for a little while. If your child is resistant to attending camp or constant social situations, be respectful of their need for the "down time" of summer.
Involve your Aspie in finding something new to learn. If your child has a special interest, this may be an offshoot of the interest, for example, if he is focused on trains, you may want to introduce learning about the history of trains in your area. Another example could be an interest in birds expanded to learning to build different types of birdhouse. Use creativity to expand knowledge and interests. This can help your Aspie be open to learning new things and can open up different activities for the family to enjoy together.
For teens, you may want to look into a part-time job or volunteer opportunities. Having somewhere to go several hours a day or a few days per week can help break up the week (and give your teen a break from playing video games) or can help serve as a way to improve social skills.
Find ways for your child to get physical exercise. The benefits of exercise for children with autism and AS were discussed in last week's post, for example, helping to reduce anxiety and depression and improving feelings of well-being. Make sure your child's summer vacation includes time for physical exercise each day.
Find the right balance for summer means understanding the specific needs of your child. Your child's age and abilities need to come into play. If you work and your child will be attending a summer program, make sure the camp will provide your child structure, explore his interests and will take into account his need for "alone time." If your child is staying at home, plan ahead with books to read, projects to do and times he will be with other children. Asperger's syndrome is different in each child. Use the summer months to help your child grow.
These tips are based on parenting a child with AS as well as talking with other parents of Aspies.
Published On: May 08, 2012