Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Countdown to the Summer Holidays

Having a 6 week break from school can seem daunting to any parent.  It’s a long time to occupy children who nowadays expect to be doing different activities all the time to keep up with their peers.  When I was younger, a day at the park or amusing yourself with toys at home was not unusual and would have been deemed as fun.  These days, kids can go to a summer camp to learn new skills or spend a week at a play scheme doing a variety of activities. 

When your children are on the Autistic Spectrum, school holidays are not always seen as an enjoyable experience as their normal routine is disrupted and they may find it difficult to deal with this change.  We tend to find that behaviour goes downhill during times of change and it can be a very stressful period with more meltdowns than normal.  As a family we have introduced a strategy this year to help our youngest son cope with the transition between term time and school holidays.  We use a countdown table as shown below to prepare him for how many sleeps there are before the change will take place.  This has been so successful, we now use it for any change we think he may struggle to contend with. 

How many sleeps until the summer holidays
Summer Holidays
(insert picture to represent holidays to your child)


For the holidays itself, it can be useful for your child if you prepare a timetable with them of the activities that will occur.  It could look something like this:

Visit the library

Friend coming round to play

Stay at home


Baking cakes

Go to the park

Visit grandparents

You may choose to use pictures for visual aids or your child may be fine with the activities written down.  My 10 year old daughter likes to use a whiteboard, so that she can write the timetable herself and then wipe it off at the end of the week and start afresh.  There may be days where you want to put activities down that you are doing in the morning, as well as the afternoon.  There is no set formula, personalise this tool to suit your own family.

On the table, I put ‘stay at home’ on Wednesday, as it is important that gaps are left for time when you will be at home with nothing planned.  All children need to learn how to deal with boredom and create ways to occupy themselves.  After asking our 8 year old son, what he could do to entertain himself if he felt bored, he soon compiled the following list:

  • Build with lego
  • Read a book
  • Drawing
  • Play in the garden
  • Play on his DS
  • Listen to music

This is an important skill to create independence.  Children with ASD may require more guidance than others to learn how to do this, but it is something we should try and teach them from an early age.  If an ASD child finds it hard to think of activities to do on their own, give them a choosing board where you put a selection of pictures/written words of activities and they will select one to do.  It may be best to limit the choice to a couple of activities in the beginning, but as their confidence grows, they will feel more comfortable in making their own decisions from a wider selection.

(You can tell I'm new to blogging as I have not worked out how to insert clipart into my blogs yet!!  I had it all created in word with visual aids in my tables, but have lost the pictures as soon as I've copied here.  Please bear with me as this is a learning curve for me!  Any tips on how to do this are welcome.)

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