Many Aspergers (high functioning autistic) kids have extreme difficulties with transitions. This can be a simple transition, such as moving from one activity to another, or a more significant transition like school letting out for the summer. When moms and dads plan ahead and schedule summer activities for their youngster, the transition out of school and into the less structured summer-time can be easier for all involved.
The purpose of summer vacation should be to give kids the opportunity to explore new learning avenues. If you have an Aspergers child, two new learning opportunities that he can benefit from are (a) new activities and (b) new places. Being able to do a new activity or go into a new location - and feel comfortable - is a valuable skill that many Aspergers kids struggle with. Fortunately, during the summer months, you can go to new places earlier in the day when they are not as crowded, which should make the experience a lot easier for your child to deal with.
The first step in exposing your Aspergers child to new activities and places will be to create a social story about it. The social story will explain where you will be going, what you will be doing, and how long you will stay there.
The second step is to walk your child through the activity he will be engaging in at the new place (e.g., he may be riding his bike in a park he has never been in).
The third step is to go to the location and engage in the activity (while monitoring closely how well your child is adjusting to the experience). It is a good idea to involve a reward at the end of a ‘successfully completed’ activity (e.g., buying a special video or book).
Now that you know how to handle exposing your child to new places and activities, sift through the list below for some ideas on what to do. (Note: Aspergers children are not all alike. One child may tolerate a particular activity or location quite well – while another may slip into a full-blown meltdown. So take it slow at first – and keep it simple).
Summer Activities for Aspergers Children—
1. AMC movie theaters provide sensory friendly film showings to families affected by Aspergers on a monthly basis. The movies are shown with the lights up and sound turned down and sensory affected audience members are invited to get up out of their seats whenever they want. It's an excellent way to enjoy a movie!
2. As the pressures of the school year ease up during the summer months, this can be a great time to get involved with other families of Aspergers children in your area. Join or form a social-skills group, which helps Aspergers children practice specific social skills within the context of a play group, field trip, or activity. Many Aspergers children desperately want to make friends and participate in social activities, but lack the direct understanding of how to do so. A social-skills group, made up of other children on the autism spectrum, is a safe place to learn and practice social skills without fear of rejection or ridicule.
3. Attend a concert.
4. Bake some cupcakes and deliver them to friends and family.
5. Bead some bracelets and sell them for charity.
6. Blow up balloons, put notes inside and let them go into the atmosphere.
7. Build a tree house.
8. Clean up a nature trail.
9. Create a web site or blog.
10. Donate some of the toys and clothes you no longer use.
11. Explore nature at a local park and take pictures of what you find to make a family scrapbook.
12. Fly a kite.
13. Go backpacking.
14. Go camping.
15. Go canoeing.
16. Go on a walk and take pictures of trees, flowers, dogs, etc.
17. Go to a ballgame.
18. Go to a museum.
19. Go without TV for a day.
20. Have a family game night.
21. Have a picnic.
22. Have a yard sale.
23. If you live in a larger metropolitan area, there may be day camps and other structured activities designed especially for children with Aspergers. These camps provide children with some of the same routines they are used to at school, while allowing them to participate in activities such as camping, swimming, arts and crafts, and other projects. Check with your child's teacher, case manager, or doctor for recommendations. Look for a day camp staffed by counselors that have had extensive training with ASD children. A counselor who has not been trained to work with Aspergers children may inadvertently trigger a meltdown, and not know how to handle one in progress. Be sure you and your child's doctor or therapist can meet with camp staff to go over strategies to make this a positive experience for your child.
24. Jump on a trampoline.
25. Learning does not have to stop just because school is out for summer. Build time into your child's daily or weekly schedule to research, experiment, and investigate a topic that interests him. If he loves video games, challenge him to design one of his own. If he is fascinated by insects, summer is a great time to begin (or add to) an insect collection. Before school is over, talk to your child about what he would like to learn more about, and begin collecting materials and planning activities to support his goals.
26. Make a bird feeder.
27. Make a bonfire and roast hotdogs and/or marsh mellows.
28. Make a collage from magazine words and pictures.
29. Make a movie.
30. Make a root beer float.
31. Make a scrapbook of everything you and your child do this summer.
32. Make dinner together.
33. Make homemade ice cream.
34. Make refreshing (and healthy) snacks like fruit smoothies and ice pops.
35. Order a pizza.
36. Plant something.
37. Set up a lemonade stand.
38. Sign up at your local library for their Summer Reading Program.
39. Sleep outside under the stars (when the weather is conducive to such an activity) using only a sleeping bag and a blow-up mattress.
40. Some Aspergers kids’ greatest sensory gains come from good old-fashioned trips to the pool. In addition to overcoming sensory issues in terms of water, you and your child can practice a lot of spatial activity with simple games of catch (e.g., with a wet, spongy nerf ball). As your child progress over some of the water issues, you may want to try water slides at your local water park.
41. Stargaze in your backyard, encouraging your kids to imagine what it would be like living on another planet.
42. Summer is the perfect time to visit local bouncer locations. “Pump It Up” is highly involved in ASD therapy bounces and has many "open" jumps on their calendar every week. Many parents see great sensory gains after a round on the giant bouncers. It's hard to call this "treatment" when it's fun for the whole family.
43. Take a boat ride.
44. Tie-dye some t-shirts.
45. Visit a farm.
46. Visit a National Park.
47. Visit the zoo.
48. Volunteer at the local animal or homeless shelter.
49. Walking and hiking can be great physical activities that your child may enjoy. However, if they have visual sensory issues, they may get vertigo if you try walking down a hill. Keep this in mind when selecting placing to walk at or hike.
50. You might find a non-profit organization near you that offers horseback riding as a therapy for special needs riders. Most moms and dads of ASD children immediately see the benefit that natural horseback riding provides in the "bouncing" and "crashing" movements that stimulate spatial relations.
Summer is a time for Aspergers children to take a breather from school and get their bearings. There are so many alternative therapies out there that thrive on outdoor, warm weather fun outside of a school setting. So get outside and have a great summer!
The Aspergers Comprehensive Handbook