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