Individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often rely heavily on schedules and predictability to feel comfortable and secure in various environments. School helps significantly with this process, providing structure each day of the week and allowing these individuals to see clear-cut goals and objectives during their daily endeavors. However, this structure can take a heavy hit when summer begins, leading parents and caregivers to worry about how these changes will impact important routines and which summer activities for autism work best to fill the time.
At ABA Centers of Florida, we understand the challenges that arise for individuals with ASD from an altered routine or schedule. With more free time, parents and caregivers need to find productive and beneficial activities to fill the gaps and maintain a schedule. The Florida summers may be unpredictable, but check out these summer activities for autism to add some much-needed structure and excitement during the hot season.
What Makes Structure So Important for Those with ASD?
Children with autism spectrum disorder regularly display repetitive behavior patterns, hobbies, and activities. This preference for repetition and sameness comes naturally to them and has numerous attributing reasons. First and foremost, it provides a sense of security, predictability, and order in their lives. It helps reduce anxiety and uncertainty by establishing clear expectations and routines. When these individuals know what to expect, they can better navigate their environment and engage in activities more comfortably and confidently.
Structured environments also facilitate learning and skill development for individuals with ASD. Consistent routines and schedules provide a framework for teaching new concepts, promoting independence, and reinforcing positive behaviors. Through structured activities, children with autism can enhance their social, communication, and adaptive skills while improving their ability to cope with transitions and changes. A routine also allows them to learn to manage their time, organize their tasks, and regulate their emotions and behaviors more effectively.
Outdoor Summer Activities for Autism
School is out, the kids are home, daily routines are thrown askew, and there are two months before normalcy returns – it’s understandably overwhelming to maneuver these sudden changes. But have no fear! Check out these outdoor summer activities to keep your child occupied while adhering to the structure they’ve grown accustomed to for the rest of the year.
1. Take a Refreshing Dip – Swimming is immensely beneficial, both physically and mentally, for children with autism. Some physical benefits of swimming include strengthening the body, boosting coordination, and improving motor and tactile skills. Swimming also reduces anxiety and stress, can help build confidence, and provides a pleasant sensory experience.
Going to the local pool, beach, or community swim area may present some challenges, especially when these locations are busy or if your child does not like the feeling of being wet. However, getting them used to the water with lessons, especially in a sensory-friendly or quiet environment, can help overcome these challenges, providing valuable benefits in the long run. Also, what’s better than cooling off in the water on extremely hot days?
2. Enjoy a Day at the Park – Exploring the outdoors is a fun activity that presents various benefits for children on the spectrum. It allows them to interact with others, engage in gross motor activities, and play at their own pace. Even though a park is usually large with many features, it often acts as a structured environment where children with ASD can learn to manage unexpected situations. Whether they explore the jungle gym, play on the swings, stroll around a pond, or shoot hoops on the courts, a park will provide a day of entertainment and stress relief.
3. Enroll Your Child in Summer Camp – Florida features a bunch of summer camps designated for autism and other developmental disabilities. These camps don’t feature standard counselors; they’re staffed with academic, medical, and behavioral therapy experts to help children overcome challenges and develop necessary life skills. You can enroll your child for a day, weekend, or week-long summer camp session to help them hone their social skills, daily living abilities, and independence. Make sure you thoroughly research if you plan on considering a summer camp and ensure that your choice works well for your child’s unique needs.
4. Outdoor Arts & Crafts – Helping your child tap into their creative side can greatly boost their confidence in the summer months. School and therapy often prioritize other areas of learning and may not explore creativity as much as your child would like. Engaging in some outdoor arts & crafts can build this skill, reinforce the importance of a creative mindset, and provide endless amounts of fun.
Some fun outdoor crafts include sidewalk chalk, starting a garden, painting rocks and other objects, soap foam printing, nature mandalas, leaf art, and more!
Indoor Summer Activities for Autism
Sometimes even the summer weather prohibits outdoor fun. In that case, here are some fun indoor activities for children with ASD.
1. Set Up a Play Date– Technically, this can be an outdoor and indoor activity. Still, in terms of maintaining a consistent structure, your child can greatly benefit from having recurring play dates with a friend, peer, neighbor, or relative. These can be weekly, bi-weekly, or at whichever frequency works for both families.
An important note to remember is that your child should want to engage in these play sessions. Never push your child into a friendship or social setting where they’re uncomfortable, and always allow them to be themselves. When these interactions are positive, it greatly benefits their social skills and helps them develop healthy friendships.
2. Movie Marathon – Need to shelter from the rain? A movie marathon may seem counterintuitive initially, but your child can help with the occasion in many ways. Have them set up the snacks, pick the movies, and remember to note positive behaviors during the viewing session. This notion could help them if they visit a theater, teaching them positive social, communication, and self-awareness skills.
3. Build a Blanket or Pillow Fort – Grab those extra blankets and pillows for a stellar indoor fort! Crafting up a secret shelter can boost creativity and tactile skills while giving your child the control they desire during construction. Allow them to build it to their liking and consider eating lunch or dinner inside the finished product like true kings of the castle. Having your child help clean up can also teach responsibility and tidiness around the house.
4. Plan a Trip or Vacation with Your Child – If you have an idea for a getaway, consider asking your child for feedback and advice on the planning process. While your child may be ecstatic no matter the destination, having them join the planning committee gives them responsibility and a little say about what they’d like to do and where. Spend some time going over locations, duration, activities, and other fun stuff with your child so they don’t feel left out or blindsided if you inform them of a vacation out of the blue.
Enhance Your Child’s Summer with ABA Therapy
Among the many ways to enhance your child’s summer experience, one of the most beneficial options is to start them in ABA therapy.
ABA Centers of Florida strives to provide you with all the tools necessary to make life easier for you and your child with autism. We offer personalized and comprehensive plans that suit your child’s unique needs, whether from our clinics, in-home or on one of the many field trips we coordinate year-round.