Here are some fun summer activities to promote learning and help reduce the stress summer can bring to children with autism spectrum disorder.
· Getting in the kitchen can be a fun activity for both you and your child! Cooking can be a great way to improve skills such as reading, listening, sequencing and even math when you’re measuring out ingredients.
· Not only is cooking a great bonding activity, but it’s also a great way to introduce different foods into your children’s diet. Research shows that it takes over a dozen times of exposure to a particular food before the child is ever willing to eat it. This is especially amplified in children with sensory aversions and developmental delays such as autism spectrum disorder so, cooking is a great time to introduce new foods while making it a fun experience.
· The mess, noise and smells that come with cooking may present some sensory challenges to children with autism. However, there are ways to make it fun including:
o If they’re hesitant to touch certain foods, wearing gloves can make it easier to handle.
o Try to begin their cooking experience by teaching them how to make their favorite foods and later incorporating these foods into new recipes.
o Re-write recipes with simple and direct language to prevent any confusion as cooking can already be an overwhelming process. In ABA, we frequently use sequencing cards to visually show each task step-by-step. These cards can also be utilized for following recipes in the kitchen for our younger chefs.
o Starting out with assembling foods like a big ice cream sundae or popsicles is a great introduction to the kitchen!
· Swimming is also a great fun and cooling summer activity! Here are ways to make swimming a fun task:
o When taking your child with autism spectrum disorder to swim, it’s important to try and avoid group lessons, so they get the one-on-one time to explore the water on their own — especially for beginners.
o Like any child, seeing their parent, caregiver or instructor motivates them to take risks such as going under or taking a further step into the water. So, don’t be hesitant to jump in with them for a swim.
o Consistency is also important as repetitive skill practice and exposure enhance willingness to go again and enhance learning.
o Celebrate all achievements in the pool, even small ones like dipping their toes!
· Speaking of swimming, what better way to cool off in the summer than with a playful water gun and balloon fight with friends?
· Escape the heat with a trip to the movie theater, which can be a great way to teach social skills by encouraging them to purchase the tickets and snacks. While this can be a fun activity, going to the movies can also be a challenging experience for children with developmental disabilities due to the noise.
· AMC Theaters now offer sensory-friendly film days to make the experience a great one with the lights turned up and the sound turned down so they can fully enjoy the film. Visit their website for the latest information on showing times and dates.
· There are ways to try out other theaters as well that may not offer this amenity with these tips:
o See a movie that has been out for a while to prevent the crowd and the overstimulating movie trailers that play with new movies.
o Practice at home with turning down the lights, setting up the sound system and bringing out their favorite snacks!
· These activities can be a great opportunity to stimulate the brain and help improve social skills such as communication and cooperation! Summer is the perfect time to “test the waters” and I hope these suggestions can help