Summer Activities for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder
With the high temperatures of July now upon us, it can be hard to find fun activities for children in the heat of summer. Summer can be an especially tough time for children with autism spectrum disorder, due to changes in routine and increases in free time. Here are a few “beat the heat” summer activities.
- Cooking! Getting in the kitchen might be a fun activity for both of you. Preparing food can be a great way to improve skills such as reading, listening, sequencing, and even math- measuring out ingredients or counting eggs.
- Try to begin a child’s cooking experience by getting them engaged in how to make their favorite foods. Children may be more willing to participate if the result is something they already like to eat.
- Preparing food is also a great way to introduce your child to different foods. Keep in mind, it might take repeated exposures to new foods before a child is willing to touch, taste, or eat a new food.
- Cooking can be messy, involve new smells, or be noisy. Start slow and simple. Introduce one new cooking experience at a time and provide lots of positive reinforcement for participation.
- If a child is hesitant to touch certain foods, wearing gloves may help. If the blender is too noisy headphones may help.
- If your child can read, re-write recipes with simple and direct language. For pre-readers, you could also print pictures of the steps to prepare a food. Using sequencing cards to visually show each step can let the child know what is next and allows caregivers to reinforce completing each step.
- Water Play! Swimming and other water activities may also be a fun and cooling summer activity.
- Swimming – safety first – consider swim lessons. Reach out to local swimming organizations or autism chapters to find swim lessons for children with disabilities.
- With any new experience, keep in mind it may take multiple experiences and lots of positive reinforcement to help a child try new water activities or learn to swim.
- Water play -what better way to cool off in the summer than with a playful water gun or balloon fight with family and or friends?
- The Movies are Back! Escape the heat with a trip to the movie theater.
- Many movie theaters in the summer have special viewings for children and some theaters have showtimes for children with disabilities. AMC Theaters in Baton Rouge and New Orleans offer sensory-friendly film days with the lights turned up and the sound turned down. Visit their website for the latest information on showing times and dates.
- Don’t have sensory-friendly movies in your area? See a movie early in the day that has been out for a while- the crowds may be smaller.
- Practice at home by turning down the lights, the volume up a bit and bring out the favorite snacks!
Celebrate Small Successes! Any new experience may present challenges – new sights, sounds, smells, locations. Touching a new food, dipping toes in the pool or just sitting through the movie trailers may be a reason to celebrate for some children. Learning new skills takes practice and children with autism or other disabilities may need lots of practice and lots of positive reinforcement. Summer is the perfect time to “test the waters.”