As we approach the end of summer, it is time to start thinking about how to transition back to a school routine. Consider the following strategies when getting your kiddos ready for the new school year:
Resume old routines – Your child’s routines, especially their sleeping routine, may have changed quite a bit over the last couple months. Returning to a school sleep schedule can take several weeks or longer, depending on the child, so it is often best to begin transitioning towards the end of summer so your child is well-rested and used to an earlier bedtime during the first week of school.
-Incrementally move back to the desired bedtime – try putting your child to bed and waking them up 10 minutes earlier than the night before for a few days. Repeat until you ultimately reach your goal bedtime.
-Establish a soothing routine – running around outside, playing video games, and watching action movies right before bed can make it difficult to fall asleep. Instead, try reading a book, working on a puzzle, coloring a picture, or doing other relaxing activities. This could also provide a good opportunity to reintroduce a homework routine.
-Minimize meltdowns – meltdowns can happen more frequently when changing routines, especially routines related to sleep. If your child seems more fatigued throughout the day, adding a short nap, or changing from a high-intensity activity to a less demanding one, may help your child get through the day without an extra meltdown.
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While Northeast Ohio has many family-fun places to visit in the winter, some families still face the challenge of finding sensory-friendly venues to visit with their loved ones who have autism. Luckily, many popular attractions in the area are now considering the ways in which they can be more inclusive to all visitors. Below are a few larger attractions now providing fantastic accommodations for individuals with sensory processing issues.
Not only is Quicken Loans Arena home of our NBA Champions, but it also houses “The Quiet Space,” a sensory room used to accommodate guests with sensory processing needs. A sensory room is available at all events that take place at the Q. Guests can also check out (at no cost by leaving an ID) weighted lap pads and sensory bags, which contain fidget toys, noise-cancelling headphones and other helpful items at the Guest Services Booths. Use this social story to prepare your loved one for an exciting visit to the arena. And for more information on their sensory sensitivity accommodations, contact Jenn Franz at JFranz@cavs.com. (Source –The Quicken Loans Arena)
The Children’s Museum of Cleveland (CMC) and Monarch Center for Autism’s Welcoming Spaces Program have joined together to develop customized visual, social, communicative, sensory, and behavioral supports that can be found throughout the museum. Some resources that the museum offers include call-ahead accommodations, social narratives, visual schedules, visual/sensory maps, tool kits and video models. The museum also has a sensory-friendly room equipped with special lighting, classical music, liquid tile mats, a tactile wall and more! (Source –The Children’s Museum of Cleveland)
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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