Autism Spectrum Disorder

Helpdesk Q&A: Summer Planning 101

Now is the time to set your sights on the summer ahead and to prepare for a change of pace. With the inconsistency in schedule that summer brings, many families with loved ones on the spectrum encounter challenges during this transition and contact the Milestones Helpdesk for guidance. Here are a few common questions we hear:

1.) My loved one has a hard time adjusting to a summer schedule. How can I make this transition easier for them?
If you know what schedule changes to expect, start prepping up to a month out from their last day of school. Start creating a visual schedule for the summer with added summer icons (swimming, camp, travel destinations, museums, etc.). Get your loved one’s teachers or providers involved in helping prep for this summer schedule as well.

Long, sunny days often have us longing for less of a schedule. Some slack is okay, but continue to provide a structure for each day that will keep your loved one regulated.

2.) I am an elementary school teacher – how can I help my students and their families enjoy the summer while also keeping next school year in mind?
As a teacher, you can provide information to families to help prevent academic slide. Remind families that taking 15-30 minutes a day to review in the summer will help keep their student on track for the following school year. Pick just a few skills that will be the most helpful and share them with your students’ parents. If appropriate, discuss extended school year (ESY) options.

Summer gives lots of opportunities for learning in different ways. Give your students options to read books of their choice, encourage creative writing, or teach them how to work on math while baking or cooking.

3.) My child enjoys spending time in their room but this often leads to them isolating themselves in the summer. How can I introduce them to new social opportunities?
Many times, families are concerned about their children hiding out in their room all summer. Get input from all members of your family and plan activities that intrigue everyone in some way. Also, think about ways you can give limits for games, computer time, and other screen entertainment to keep your child from expecting unlimited play time. For example, allow 1-2 hours of preferred screen time for an equal amount of family, outside or learning time. Consider setting up a screen time contract prior to summer so everyone knows the rules and consequences ahead of time.

To get them interested in more social activities with the rest of the family, encourage your loved one with a small reward.

4.) Where are some helpful places I can find a list of autism-friendly summer events in my community?
The Summer and Beyond Fair every February is put on by the Educational Service Center of Cuyahoga County. There will be countless camps and other ESY options represented there for families to learn about.

If you are not local to Northeast Ohio or unable to make it, ESC of Cuyahoga County will publish a full list of all the programs in attendance shortly after the fair so you can review it right at home.

Another great source for information about summer options is through your current providers.  Many SLPs, OTs, PTs, mental health and ABA therapists will often run summer camps to work on specific skills.

For non-camp options, check out Milestones’ calendar and the calendars of museums, zoos, science centers to see if they have a sensory friendly day, a sensory room option, or other accommodations for your loved one during the summer.

5.) How can I get my loved one to try a new activity?
Consider what they enjoy doing and find a similar activity. Introduce them to this new activity in small steps so they are not overwhelmed. For example, if they like swimming and you want to try a water park, consider starting out at a local splash pad. The splash pad will introduce them to the noise level and being around a small crowd of people. There are many splash pads that are free or low-cost throughout Northeast Ohio.

6.) We’re going on vacation! Now what?
Milestones’ travel tool kit is here to help. The tool kit provides information about family-friendly destinations, medical and safety concerns, social stories, and helpful links about air and road travel. It’s a one-stop shop to help with your vacation planning so your family trip can be as smooth as possible.

7.) How can families find some added one-on-one support for the summer?
It’s best to plan ahead as much as the family is able. Think about your budget, then identify what days, times, and level of support your loved one will need for the summer. Sometimes, it is wise to reach out to local colleges for students who are majoring in special education, psychology, social work or similar fields that are available and want to gain experience. Use our guiding questions when interviewing potential providers.

8.) I see your national conference is in June. Tell me more…
The Milestones National Autism Conference draws family members, professionals, and individuals on the spectrum from all over the country. With over 80 evidence-based sessions taught by experts in the field, it is a one of a kind event that allows the entire autism community to learn together. Offering CEUs in 11 disciplines this year, the conference also serves as a hub for professional growth for all. Register before February 28th and save!  We can’t wait to learn with you.

Don’t forget that Milestones’ website provides resources, tool kits and guiding questions. Be sure to download our free resources as you make your plans for summer. Our coaching staff is always here to help you- so don’t hesitate to call our free Helpdesk or come in for a consultation.


Haley Dunn works with individuals with ASD as Milestones’ Teen/Adult Coordinator to help them transition to adulthood. She has experience working with individuals with developmental disabilities and ASD to transition from school to work, as well as providing mental health counseling services. Haley has a deep passion for connecting people to their community, whether it is through employment, volunteering, or life enrichment activities.
(216) 464-7600 x115



My Milestones – Edie Ungar-Shafron

As a school psychologist and someone who is on the “inside” of the autism community looking out, it is often easy to forget that some of my fellow Clevelanders may be unaware of the impressive autism network we have here, at our fingertips in Northeast Ohio.

Over the years, I have gained insight to the local autism community thanks to my professional and personal involvement with Milestones Autism Resources, an agency close to my heart, that helps individuals with autism reach their potential. I have been able to experience the generosity and passion within this system firsthand, a passion that reminds me so much of the close-knit altruism within our local community.

I initially became involved with Milestones after seeing the critical need to provide autism resources to my “kids” at school and to their families. Milestones connected me with the vetted local resources I needed. This evolved into becoming an active volunteer, a participant in the Milestones conference, and most recently, into serving as co-chair for Strike It Big, one of their biggest fundraising events of the year.

Strike It Big for Milestones provides inclusion and support for individuals on the spectrum, two things the larger Northeast Ohio autism community is constantly working together to provide. Along with an afternoon of fun, bowling and other activities, this family-friendly bowling event provides a “no-judgment zone” in which children can be themselves. Through fundraising and attending the event on March 11th at Spins Bowl in Independence, the local community can come together to support Milestones’ free Autism Helpdesk, a service that allows families to contact professional staff for personal guidance and individualized information at each and every stage of their child’s development.
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Straight From the Source – The Importance of Making SMART Goals

As I consider making goals, whether for the whole year of 2018 or just for upcoming situations I know will be challenging, I utilize a pattern I learned in my first semester of college. This strategy may be familiar to you too. It’s called making “SMART” goals, which is an acronym that stands for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely.

Using this strategy has helped me find success in areas where I truly want to make changes or grow personally. In the past when I was not realistic, I would make goals that were far too grandiose which resulted in my giving up easily, and being unable to actually see any progress. Now I concentrate on smaller but attainable changes, and once I reach them I push the goals out further. I also set only one or two goals at a time in order to keep my focus.

For example, I struggle with asking repetitive, anxiety-provoked questions of others. Instead of setting a goal like, “I will stop asking repetitive questions,” I set a SMART goal. Applying the SMART strategy to the goal would look like this:

S (specific): I will reduce my repetitive, anxiety-provoked questions at home. I will enlist the help of a family member to give me cues when needed and keep me accountable to my goal. I will reduce the questions to two times each.
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Ask the Expert – Helping Your Child See New Success in 2018

The New Year is here and with it comes those New Year’s resolutions. Resolutions are the goals we set for ourselves for the upcoming year – try to eat healthier, save more money, make time to get to the gym.

This might also be a good time for families to reflect on what goals they may have for their children with autism. I frequently get asked the question, “Do you see this as something my child can do within one year?” Your child’s educational team also has to make this determination when writing goals for the Individualized Education Program.

In thinking about setting goals, take a page from the IEP guidelines and try to make them SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, results-oriented, and time-bound. Instead of, “I want my child to communicate more with me,” think about what is the most important thing they learn to communicate.  Instead of “I want my child to read”, maybe “I want my child to read 10 words, or 20 words,” or whatever makes the most sense.

As with any goal, in order to get somewhere, you have to know where you are at. It’s difficult to measure progress if you don’t have a baseline measurement to know what you are comparing to.  Additionally, it’s hard to know whether the teaching you are doing is having the impact you want, without occasionally measuring the progress. That’s why data-driven decisions are so crucial. If you have an idea in your mind about what kind of goal you want to work towards achieving with your son or daughter, stop and take a measurement of what their current skill is in this area.
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Helpdesk Q&A: Holiday Help

Wondering how to get through the holidays? You’re not alone. Many families with a loved one on the spectrum feel overwhelmed this time of year and contact Milestones for some extra support. Below, Program Director Beth Thompson answers some of the most common questions we hear during the holiday season.

What can I do to make traveling easier for my loved one?
Milestones has compiled tips for you to ensure that your travel for a vacation or family gathering starts and ends on a positive note. Read the Milestones Travel Tips Toolkit for ways to make your flights successful! When possible, have your loved one visit the airport and go through a “mock run”. Also, check to see if there are school groups or organizations like Wings for Autism in your area who can help your family with this.

How do I make my home welcoming for loved ones with autism?
Reference our “How to Make a Place Welcoming” quick tips! Don’t be afraid to the teen or adult or their parent how to make gatherings better for them. They will be grateful you asked instead of assumed.
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