It’s that time of year again when many parents dread the long weeks ahead as the routine of our children is disrupted by the school summer holidays.
School holidays can be a major disruption in routine for our kids that need careful consideration and planning. School holidays are usually an opportunity for children and families to relax and have a break. However, for the child on the autism spectrum who may thrive on the routine and structure of the school day, holidays may be a stressful and challenging experience.
For many children the removal of the routine that attending school brings can result in increased anxiety and challenging behaviours.
Not every child on the spectrum will find the school holidays stressful. Time away from the demands of the classroom can be a positive experience for some children and the return to school after a period of 'down time' at home can be the greatest challenge. It is important that children are prepared for the move back to school as this usually provides some amount of stress to most children.
I’d like to share some thoughts on a range of activities for the school holidays that have helped my family, and which may stimulate some ideas for you and your children.
I’d start by urging you to talk to other parents within your school network to find out about local events or even to arrange play dates and joint activities.
It is also important when planning any holiday activities to consider a number of factors that can reduce stress for everyone.
If something has worked for you in the past, why not repeat the experience. My eldest love s the Titanic experience in Belfast I think we can recite the script by heart, but it works, and he enjoys it.
Be clear about the number of activities you and your family will be comfortable with. I say this because it is important not to overwhelm your child with myriad of activities in an attempt to fill the void of school routine. This can be counter productive so remember that part of the schedule should be relaxation and calming activities.
Try to get your child to choose what they want to do.
Create a calendar of events which can reduce stress for your child and if appropriate supplement this with a social story for each activity.
As with all things with autism preparation is key if attempting a new experience of visiting a new environment. Ensure you prepare your child and ensure they understand what is going to happen and how much fun they will have.
Have your handy backpack ready for every occasion and they are essential to calm and reassure our children or distract them when stressed. Many of us have them and they can include:
- Snacks and drinks
- Fidget toys
- Favourite toys
Activities at Home
Activities out of Home
Sensory play with playdoh
Art / Handwriting practice
One final thing I’d say is do not feel pressure to plan or organise activities for each and every day. It is important to remember that the school holidays are a time which is an opportunity for everyone in the family to recharge, relax, take a break, and prepare themselves for the upcoming term which can be just as stressful as the holidays but that’s for another blog.
In the meantime, have a relaxing and happy school holiday with your child.