Many parents of children with autism may feel lost when the school year ends. Kids with autism thrive on structure, routine and knowing what comes next, so summer break can often feel more challenging than fun.
That’s why we’ve created a list of several activities to try with your child this summer. These activities incorporate new and different smells, sounds, feelings and textures to give your child a great sensory experience. It goes without saying that every child with autism is different, so you’ll likely want to modify these summer activities to suit your child’s unique needs.
Here are four summer activities to try with your child:
- Go for a Dip
Swimming offers many therapeutic benefits to kids with autism. Not only can swimming provide an enjoyable sensory experience, help strengthen bodies and reduce anxiety, but it can also bring more confidence, coordination and fun into their lives. Plus, there’s nothing like taking a dip on a hot summer day!
The YMCA, beach, lake and county reservoir are all great options to take your child with autism swimming this summer. And by heading to the community pool or local watering hole early in the morning or on a Sunday afternoon, you can avoid noisy or stressful crowds. Many pools even offer designated special needs swimming times, lessons and sports.
If your child isn’t swimming like a fish quite yet, then wading or splashing around in the water may be more appropriate. Of course, it’s extremely important you stay vigilant and keep your eye on your child when they’re in the water, no matter how shallow it may be.
- See a Movie
Going to the movies is a great summer activity for kids with autism when it’s too hot or rainy out, or when they just don’t feel like being outside. But we’re not talking about just any movie.
AMC Theaters (and some smaller local theaters) regularly hosts sensory-friendly movie nights for kids and young adults on the autism spectrum. The theater leaves the lights turned slightly up and forgoes their rule against bringing your own snacks and the “Silence is Golden” policy to create a safe, comfortable, autism-friendly environment.
Audience members are welcome to get up and pace, dance, walk, shout or sing during the movie, so your family can relax and enjoy some quality family time without worrying about disturbing fellow moviegoers. Learn more about Sensory Friendly Films at AMC Theaters.
- Explore Arts & Crafts
With so much time spent at school and therapies and practicing skills, it’s hard to find free time during the school year. Their busy schedules mean many kids with autism don’t get the chance to explore their artistic side with arts and crafts. But that all changes when summer rolls around. Integrating arts and crafts into your child’s summer routine can help give their day the structure they crave when school is out.
Art therapy can offer many benefits to kids on and off the spectrum. And depending on the materials you use, doing arts and crafts can be an enjoyable sensory experience for your child. Simply set up a designated craft corner at your home and browse Pinterest to find countless autism- and sensory-friendly craft projects you can try with your child this summer.
- Attend Summer Camp
Nowadays, there are several special needs children’s camps that offer a fun, safe, and therapeutic summer camp experience for children and young adults on the autism spectrum. Instead of typical camp counselors, special needs summer camps are home to academic, therapeutic and medical experts, like behavioral, speech and physical therapists. Depending on your child’s unique needs and capabilities, they might attend a day, a weekend, or week(s)-long summer camp session.
While it’s not the right fit for every family, a special needs summer camp offers an amazing opportunity for kids with special needs to learn how to cope with the dynamics of group situations; work on daily living, social and life skills; and expand their social group.
If going to camp isn’t a realistic option for your child, you might head to the park or turn your backyard into a weekend summer camp experience! You can schedule some sensory-friendly activities that will engage your child and get them to spend some time outside.
Hopefully these summer activities (or whatever version of them you do) can help give your child the sensory experience, movement and routine they need to have a successful summer.