Summer Programs for Kids with Autism

Summer is an exciting time for many children and adults, but it can also be extremely challenging- especially for children on the autism spectrum. Summer activities, such as going to the beach or pool, or vacations can overwhelm children with autism if they are not properly prepared. If you have a child with autism though, it’s still possible to have a fun and exciting summer spent with your little one. Summer programs for kids with autism are a great resource, and these tips can help ease the transition from the school year to the summer season!

Find A Routine

Often, as the summer season rolls around, it’s easy to start neglecting the routine you have built for your child throughout the school year. After all, summer is made for relaxing. However, having a daily routine is important for children with autism and can make their (and your) life easier during the summer months.

So, take time to create your summer schedule. Start a calendar and mark any plans – it’s helpful to make it a visual schedule so your child can see what is coming up and prepare for it. Some parents even use timers or alarms, giving children physical cues for their routine. Find what works best for you and your child and stick to it.

If you are planning an activity that is new to your child, help them understand what to expect by sharing photos and stories beforehand. It can also be beneficial to have and share back-up plans with your child for weather-dependent activities. For instance, if it is raining on a day you and your child were planning on going to the pool, having already decided on a back-up plan (like the aquarium) can help your child adjust to the new activity.

Try to stick to the same schedule for sleeping and eating too. This helps your child feel less stressed and more likely to enjoy fun summer activities. It’s okay- and encouraged- to plan summer activities with your child, but by having a plan, schedule, and routine, you and your child will have a better time.

Plan For Travel

Going on vacation with the family is something many parents look forward to over the summer. If you have a child with autism, planning your vacation may require some additional planning. Just like your summer routine, it’s important to have a plan in place before leaving. Know what activities you will be doing each day and share these with your child. And, have alternate plans in case something goes wrong.

A child with autism on a plane.

It’s also a good idea to prepare your child for the vacation with photos and videos of your destination. You may even want to plan a one-night stay at a local hotel so your child can experience what staying at a hotel is like. Depending on if your child has flown before, long flights may want to be avoided. If you do decide on a long flight, be prepared with snacks and activities and explain to your child what the flight will be like in advance.

Additionally, you will want to take extra care when selecting where you are staying on your vacation. If you are choosing a home or apartment rental, make sure the location can be secured, keeping your child safe and unable to exit the premises on their own. If you are visiting a larger city, take note of the nightlife in the area of your hotel or rental. Bright lights and noise throughout the night are not ideal and you may want to choose a location that is further from a busy urban area.

Consider Autism Summer Camps or Autism Summer Programs

One of the most challenging aspects of the summer for parents with children on the spectrum is the loss of therapies and support. In-school programs come to an end, and children no longer have the support of 1:1 aide’s in school. For working parents, this can be especially difficult because they must find programs, camps, or care for their children during the hours they are no longer attending school. And on top of that, even if parents find programs for their children, they can be extremely expensive.

The good news is that autism summer camps and programs are becoming increasingly available. And if you research and plan ahead you can find an appropriate autism summer program for your child. Some of these options are:

Extended School Year

Extended School Year (ESY) is a program that provides services during the summer months that are specifically designed for children with disabilities or impairments. ESY varies from state to state, and even school to school, but can be a great option for children during the summer months. Qualifying for ESY requires your child to be assessed, so make sure you understand when and how to request an assessment for your child – it may be as early as winter break.

Each ESY program varies in length and scope, with some offering full-day ESY and others just a few hours. Some programs may even provide support for summer camp. Do your research and ask around to understand what is offered in your area and school. If it’s an appropriate fit for your child, ESY can be a great option!

Autism Summer Camp

Many parents turn to summer camps for their children during the summer, but for children with autism, regular summer camps are often not an option. Luckily there are autism summer camps that cater to children with special needs. Some simple research will help you identify any of these camps near you and if they would be a good fit for your child.

It’s important to note that summer camps can be costly though. If you are on a tight budget, you can research and apply for any available scholarships. If your child receives a scholarship or you can afford to send them to a summer camp regardless, autism summer camp can be a fun and exciting experience for children with autism.

Find Support

Last but not least, finding a relative or hiring someone to help support your child during the summer can have amazing benefits. This way, you can know that your child is receiving the care and support they need even if you are not with them all of the time. Whether you are at work, attending to another child, or having some “me time,” you cannot be with your child at all times. By having a designated individual to help your child, you can help ease your worries and know that your child is in great hands.

Have a Great Summer with the Pingree Center!

Here at the Pingree Center, we understand how important it is to find care and support for your child, especially during the summer months. We offer multiple programs for children with autism all year long, providing comprehensive treatment, education, and related services for children with autism and their families. No matter what age your child is, the Pingree Center can be a great resource, so contact us today to learn more about our services and how you can apply!