From the experience I have as a professional working with families with children with autism, there is something I have observed about the summer holidays that appears a regular theme in many families every year. There seems to be two attitudes about the summer holidays:
1. “Yay, it’s the summer holidays, now I have more time with my child to interact and achieve our goals.” With this comes progress and discoveries.
2. “Oh no! It’s the summer holidays; I don’t know what to do with my child to keep them occupied.” With this comes panic, energy draining, unproductive time and stress.
With a bit of organising and prioritising, I believe you can make the most out of summer and turn your ‘busy’ into ‘productive’. Here are some tips:
1. As with most things, its best to start with a goal/ objective that you are aiming for. Choose a goal to focus on over the summer holidays; this might be something to do with physical development such as learning to swim or social development such as discovering non-verbal communication. Once you have your goal in mind you can tailor your summer towards achieving that goal and therefore recognise progress straight away.
2. Be realistic. Ensure that your goal is not too challenging or difficult for you and your child to achieve. It may need to be broken down into smaller pieces. You will need to be realistic about how much time you have to dedicate over the summer and consider siblings, work, and childcare elements too.
3. Planning is your friend! We are entering August now and ideally having a plan in place before the summer holidays begin is more useful, however it is NEVER too late! Plan in some time each week to schedule some quality interactions with your child and a rough outline of what activities it might include. This will make life easier for you to plan in more detail the specifics of the interaction.
4. Take a few moments to plan the important elements of the interaction and consider framing, co-regulation, scaffolding, and spotlighting.
5. Forgive yourself! For many the summer holidays means a complete change of routine and this is more challenging for some than others. You are bound to have a few mishaps and disorganised moments just don’t give yourself a hard time about it. Learn from these experiences useful feedback rather than seeing it as failure.
Don’t let the summer holidays sweep you away in a crazy busy whirlwind, aim to take some responsibility over it so that when you review it you can say what progress and memories you have made together.
By the way… these same tips can be applied to any holiday (Easter, Christmas) or half term.
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