News and Notes from The Johnson Center

Q & A: How can we use our summer break to help our child with ASD?

JCCHD | Mon, June 18, 2012 | [Community][Q and A ]

For many families, summertime can bring more stress than relaxation. Losing the school routine can be disruptive for both kids and parents, because of the surplus of free time. For all children, it’s important for parents to remember that a break can be just as beneficial as continuing the structured learning schedule… and that it’s possible to achieve both during those summer months.

One of the first things that comes to mind for many when they think of their childhood summers is camp. There are endless options for summer camps, with a focus on everything from horseback riding to painting to social skills. If you have a child with autism, finding the right summer camp can be daunting even with the growing number of camps for children with special needs. It’s important to find the right balance of fun activities while incorporating a continuation of the hard work and therapy that took place during the school year. Camp can be a wonderful opportunity for your child to meet others outside of their own environment, develop and grow social skills, and create long-lasting friends and memories. Camp can also instill independence and confidence. Some clinics and therapy centers offer summer camps that center on social skills. Grouping children by age and skill level allows for development of those skills in a supportive setting. It can also facilitate friendships between peers outside of their school setting. To learn more about finding an appropriate summer camp for your child, click here. If you are interested in any of the social skills camps being offered at The Johnson Center for the summer of 2012, visit our website here and click on the camp flyers on our homepage.

Summer can also be the perfect time to plan a vacation. Escaping the summer heat, visiting family, taking a road trip… there are many great reasons to pick up and go somewhere new. Children with autism and their families might envision challenges when they think of travelling, but the right preparation can make it easier for everyone. Places like Walt Disney World have been serving the special-needs community for years, and help make each family’s experience as comfortable and fun as possible by offering things like allergen-free foods and ingredient lists when requested, as well as passes that allow a shortened wait time in lines. Calling ahead and asking about accommodations can give you a head start when planning your trip to any new destination.
Social stories can be another tool that families use when embarking on a new experience. For example, if going to the airport and flying for the first time is included in your summer plans, you could use a social story about travelling on an airplane to prepare your child. You could also set up a time to take your family to the airport ahead of time to get more familiar with the upcoming trip and create your own social story. Click here to read about Wings for Autism in Boston, Massachusetts, and how they created a program that provides families of children with autism the opportunity to get familiar with air travel in a realistic, but low-pressure setting.

The summer months are a time for exploring, relaxing, and enjoying time with family and friends. With the right tools and planning, families with special needs can experience these rites of passage and build memories that last a lifetime, while also incorporating continued learning opportunities. For more tips and resources on travelling with individuals with autism, click here.