Summer is a fun time and a much-needed break around here, but for some of my students, the downtime is the great unknown. I have had several conversations with parents about them dreading the break because the routine changes, and for my kids on the spectrum, this rocks their world. Preparation is the key to success for my friends and my parents are experts on planning! Here are some things that have worked well to help students with social language challenges (ASD, ADD, anxiety) make a smooth transition into summer:
Prep the kids prior to school ending and plan together so they have an idea of “what comes next”. You can get a good sense if this talking through the schedule helps or stresses them out, and adjust accordingly!
If you are heading out on vacation to see family, go over pictures and try to connect prior positive experiences for the child. If you are traveling somewhere new, go online together to find out more about where you are headed. There are many virtual tours and 360 online videos of places from airports to The Louvre!
Summer camps (day or overnight) can also be prepped in advance and toured prior to going to reduce anxiety. If they are going with friends or returning to familiar counselors, that is helpful too.
Social stories are available on Pinterest for almost every adventure! Print them out and make a summer notebook with them.
For younger students, continue using a visual schedule over the summer. For older kids a calendar (paper or iPhone version) will help reduce anxiety and allow you to introduce new activities into a familiar schedule prior to the event.
Downtime is important, so don’t over-schedule your family either. We all need to slow down!
Playdates don’t have to be all day, 30 minutes in the park or at the pool may be plenty to engage with other kids and have a positive, fun experience! Once you get buy in, then you can extend the time little by little!
Activities with a sensory component are great (swinging, climbing, swimming, cooking) and may help organize and engage the kids more than playing a video game side by side silently. We want to encourage social interaction with others!
For students who read and write, consider setting up a pen pal with a cousin or family members. They can email and video chat to talk about their day. It’s a sneaky way to work on conversational turn taking and topic maintenance 🙂 You can help kids develop what Michelle Garcia Winner calls “people files”. Here is my free Super Summer Sleuth activity to work on these skills HERE .
Speaking of MGW, here is a fantastic article to share with anyone, such as camp counselors, babysitters or visiting grandparents, who will be with kids who have social challenges. It will help them understand why some kids “act like they do” and give them the language from the Think Social program to use for consistency.
Play games together at home. Winning and losing with grace are hard skills for some kids (and adults)! Don’t always let your kids win to keep them from melting down, their peers sure won’t do that! I like this freebie visual on TPT to talk about losing a game.
Take pictures or videos of your summer and share them with your SLP and teachers when you head back to school. It will help you remember and talk about all the fun you had this summer!