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HeARTs for Autism®
Supporting Families and Raising Awareness for the Autism Spectrum Disorders

July 2008 – Summer Tips

Hello Spectrum Families and Friends!

Summer is upon us! The Schwoyer family is having a busy time with moving to a new house, working, vacation, summer camp, and several day trips. What kind of summer do you have planned? Hopefully, you have a few days of rest and fun scheduled.

For some families, this is an easy time, yet for many, it is a difficult time with the change in routine, too much togetherness, and a looser schedule - it can easily overwhelm anyone. We each develop strategies to cope with the season. What is yours? As I watched the fireworks tonight, I remembered for several years Kevin and I would have to hide. He was petrified of the noise. And of thunder too. So, summer storms would send us scurrying to get away from it all. Kevin loves water, and hours would be spent in sprinklers, pools or the ocean - to be followed by a bath! His brother and sister would go along with it all to the point they could handle it, and then their father or someone else would have to take them and deal with their needs.

Several families have been discussing their strategies for summer with their Spectrum person. Some school age children will go to ESY (Extended School Year); some to a camp; some to a grandparent; some stay with mom and do day trips; others travel on vacation; some older ASD persons are looking for workshops or day programs.

For the Spectrum family, there is always the challenge of adapting to the emotional, communication, social, and sensory aspects of the person with Autism during this time of disrupted routines and new experiences. It is amazing sometimes to hear the ways we deal with this unique condition.

HeARTs for Autism is looking for your feedback - How does your family cope with summer? Is your ASD person scheduled to attend any programming? Where? Do you do educational follow up at home? Do you have any therapeutic support? What is your ASD person's favorite summer activity? What do they dislike or fear? What do you like? Do you get respite or support in these summer days?

We will compile your responses and publish it through email. You may find some helpful information in what we share as a group. Just send any thoughts, strategies or questions you have to Robin@Heartsforautism.org or reply to this email.

What we do know from our advisory board is there are a few simple tips to consider:

1. Please find supports - family, friends, agencies, programs, etc.
2. Don't be afraid to ask for help - more importantly, don't be afraid to accept and utilize the support.
3. Have a schedule for the family. It doesn't have to be exactly like the school year, or very rigid, but just the idea that their is a visual schedule or calendar that the ASD person and other family members can see is helpful. Even better, involve the whole family in developing the schedule. This way, there is buy in and understanding in how the days must flow for meals, personal care, chores, activities, etc.
4. Communicate throughout the day what is occurring and what to expect.
5. Try new things - crafts, art, music, playgrounds, museums, practicing new life skills, chores, etc. Think of the interests or fixations of the Spectrum person - can you find an activity to engage them.
6. Plan socialization - some children are in neighborhoods where they have a other kids to interact with. Many families find as their child grows older, this is more complicated as the gaps in social abilities and interest increase. Contact peers from class and see if a get together is possible. Ask "mature" sensitive type kids to play a game or interact with your child. Contact local agencies to see if they know of any social groups.
7. Vacation - if you go away, does your child know the location? Are they okay in car, train, plane, etc? Do you have a "tool kit" to cope with the days away, like sensory items, favorite books, videos, music, toys, etc ? Can you create a story about your trip with pictures? This will add to the comfort level of the ASD person and allow them to create some coping strategies.
8. Siblings - do you have a plan for them? Do they get some quality one on one time with you or another family member? Do they have a camp program or something to occupy their time?
9. Computer and TV are helpful in many ways, yet limits are necessary.
10. Take time for yourself! Adult time to rest and rejuvenate can make life more enjoyable. Take short breaks during the day to listen to a favorite song, meditate, read, chat with a friend, sip some iced tea, etc. Can you get a nite out? Now is the time to ask friends and family to help out. You and your partner could take turns allowing the other to have downtime. And then relax! don't worry! don't feel guilty! Enjoy that special time.
11. Choose peace and love as the attitude to guide you through these days, and look for ways to celebrate the summer season with your family.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Wishing you safe, happy summer days!

Robin V Schwoyer
HeARTs for Autism, Director


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