With the end of the school year right around the corner, many kids are beginning to look forward to summertime and the break from school. While for so many of us summer means warm weather and long relaxing days at the pool, it’s also a big change in routine that can be a behavior trigger for children with autism and other special needs. If your family is excited about the end of the school year, but approaching this change with a little trepidation, we’re here for you!
Most children tend to be more comfortable with and prefer routine, and this is even more true for children with special needs. Kids like to know what’s going to happen and when, and big changes—such as transitioning from the school year to summertime—can be stressful and increase anxiety (which in turn can result in increased tantrums and other challenging behaviors). At Innovative Behavior Options, our ABA therapists have put together a few strategies you can use at home to help your child navigate routine changes.
ABA Therapy Strategies for Adjusting Routines
As with so many aspects of special needs parenting, preparation is key! With a little planning ahead, you can help your child adjust easier by letting them know what to expect and giving them (and yourself!) the right set of tools. Here are a few strategies to help everyone adjust.
Create Visual Supports
Children with Autism often respond well to and can better process information when it’s delivered visually. Use a calendar to count down the days until the end of the school year (and the beginning of summer!), so your child can see that a big change is coming. Bonus: As you determine your new summertime schedule, you can use the same calendar or a visual schedule to help your child understand the new routine. If you need a few tips and tricks for making visual supports for your child with Autism, check out this blog.
Use Social Stories
Like visual supports, social stories are a powerful way to communicate new concepts to children with Autism. Use social stories to introduce major routine changes, like summer break, and to help answer unasked questions from your child. We know kids often miss teachers and friends while away from school, so be sure to also point out positive parts of the change that may help your child get excited. Just like with bedtime stories, try to end on a positive note.
Create a Calm Down Area
We’ve talked about the value of creating a calm down area in your home in a previous blog, and such a space will hold even more value during a transition (especially when the routine change means more time at home). When transition and upended routine become too much, having a safe, comfortable space for your child with Autism to go to process his or her feelings and get the sensory input they crave can help turn around an impending tantrum. A calm down space doesn’t have to be elaborate or big – a bucket full of the right sensory friendly items in a designated area can be enough.
With any big schedule change, both you and your child may be feeling a little off-balance. Just like with an adult, don’t forget to talk with your child as openly as you can. Validate his or her feelings and experiences. A little extra understanding and encouragement can go a long way.
At Innovative Behavior Options, we’re here to help you and your family thrive through upended routines and schedule changes. To learn more about our approach to ABA therapy, check out our website or give us a call at 770-250-0093.