Summer means no school for kids and longer hours of un-engaged time. This can be a challenge when you have a special child. One option is to enroll your child in a summer camp for a few weeks. During the weeks that the child is not enrolled in a summer program, parents need to be proactive in planning the week, so that there is an abundant variety of activities that the children (your special and typical ones) can engage in. Here are some things you can do right in your home/neighborhood/town.
- Day trips – there are several special needs friendly places in the Bay Area – California Academy of Sciences, Children’s Discovery Museum, Gilroy Gardens, Monterey Bay Aquarium, and the Oakland zoo are a few examples. Prepare your child by sharing with him/her pictures of the places you are going to visit and talk about the things you are going to do.
- Take a train ride – Vasona Park in Los Gatos has a short train ride that is just right for little kids. Roaring Camp also has some great train rides though scenic routes that both kids and adults can enjoy. Tilden Park in Berkley has a train ride, a little farm, a lake, and offers great hiking trails.
- Keep up their skills – summer is a great time to practice handwriting, counting, cutting, and other skills needed for the school year. You can also work on daily living skills such as safety in parking lots, following directions, and cooking. Summer is a great time to introduce your child to soccer, basketball, roller skating, or swimming.
- Gardening – this is a great time to introduce them to gardening. Start a small vegetable patch in your yard. Let your child help you with the planting, watering, pruning, and picking. Include these vegetables in your cooking. and share some with neighbors.
- Photography – Let your child enjoy his first polaroid camera. Or you can ntroduce him to more serious photography. First, teach him how to use your digital camera. Then, let him take pictures of subjects that interest him. An older child can be taught about lighting, exposure, contrast, symmetry, and other aspects of photography.
- Cooking – this is a life skill as well as a fun hobby. You can make smoothies and shakes together. You can bake muffins or pancakes for breakfast on weekends. Pick meals that your child loves to eat and show him/her how to make them. You can make a card for each step in the process with a picture of the step, along with written directions.
- Social Skills – organize playgroups and family gatherings to create social opportunities for your child.
Remember that planning the week ahead can make a huge difference. Long streches of unstructured time can be difficult for children with autism to handle – having fun activities planned that are not too over-stimulating wil minimize stress and provide relaxation for the entire family.
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