Summer holidays with an autistic child, reducing the stress of.
Hi, my name is Sarah and I have an autistic child who is 10 years old and I do dread the summer holidays. I love my children but I also dread this time.
I know these holidays are inevitable and I plan for them and every year I plan knowing how I need to plan for Rohan but there are still countless challenges to overcome; both predictable and unpredictable.
Some years i’ve gone over complicated on the planning and some years I pulled right back to see what happens and i’ve found that simple but clear boundaries have worked; so somewhere in the middle.
For my son the summer holidays are stressful. The loss of routines, the loss of the expected agenda and knowing what comes next and what comes after what comes next is disorientating for Rohan.
This disorientation and stress is expressed through his behaviour and he can become distressed and hurt himself or hurt those around him. As a family we try really hard to focus on easing Rohan into change and managing that process between familiar and new can be difficult. I don’t think I will ever quite ‘nail’ it but I am always willing to do what I can. Below is what I did this year; mini tweaks from last year but 2 weeks in and we are doing okay.
- I create a visual count down calendar for the last month of the final term.
- I create a visual calendar for the summer holidays. There is one in the kitchen for everyone to see and both my children have one and then Rohan has his own on his bedroom wall. Both of these calendars Rohan helps design and laminate.
- We keep as much ‘school day’ routine as we can 5 days a week. So for Rohan this looks like getting his next day clothes ready the night before. He loves the packed lunch theme so we make that the night before (even if he is staying home), he gets up at his usual time and gets dressed. Lunch time is the same as school time and any activities within that time are carefully planned. We don’t put the pressure on to completely replicate a school day but where we can does make a difference.
- Social stories. Rohan is the kind of child who has lots of questions as he tries to make sense of whats going on around him and inside him; Rohan is adopted and we as a family have had some experience of how social stories are structured and learning this along with Rohan’s language; helps keep our communication high.
- I bring more transition time in for Rohan, so I may give his 15 – 30 minutes notice before an activity change or whatever change is required.
- As he has got older he has taken on more interest in activities such as football; whilst he can’t yet manage to be in a team led environment; he loves to have a kick about at the park or in the garden. We make sure he has plenty of that [free] time where he can have his hyper focus because this is his switch off and recharge time.
- Flexibility. Rohan has been in our lives since he was 2 years old and as a family our biggest and first lesson that has run through our time together to this day; is flexibility. The more flexible we are for Rohan, the safer and more in control he feels.
- Fun activities that Rohan enjoys, Rohan loves to choose movie nights with snacks and hugs where we are all on the sofa together. Life is hectic and busy and our other son is 16 years old now but we value that Rohan loves family time so it’s phones down every Friday night and movie night where we are all present for it. I hope this is something we do always.
- Rohan will stim more so we make sure that he has fidget toys everywhere to hand and he likes to pour water from one container to another so we make sure he has space for these activities too.
- Transition back to school in plenty of time which includes a drive by or two, walking around the outside of the school and finding that familiar. The school gives us a support pack for Rohan with pictures of things like his classroom, chair and peg and where he will have his lunch. Sometimes he watches YouTube videos of the school and the published activities, he likes to stay connected in that way.
I understand these are baseline support actions that many people put in and i’m still learning as Rohan grows up what adaptions he needs but I just wanted to share what we do to help Rohan.
I myself am always looking for great tips and would love to read any great ideas from anyone.
Thank you for reading x