Many children on the autism spectrum have extreme difficulties with transitions. This can be a simple transition such as moving from one activity to another or a more significant transition like school letting out for the summer. When parents plan ahead and schedule summer activities for their child, the transition out of school and into the less structured summer time can be easier for all involved.
Extended School Year (ESY)
Some children that have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) may qualify for Extended School Year (ESY) services. While some school districts may offer ESY services for all of their students with autism, others require that a student qualify for the extended school year.
School districts look at a variety of things when considering whether the child qualifies for ESY including (but not limited to) the severity of the child’s disability or impairment, whether the child is likely to regress, and if the child has new or emerging skills at the end of the school year.
Attending either a day or sleep away summer camp is a tradition for children of all ages and abilities. While some children on the autism spectrum may be able to attend a traditional summer camp, some children require more supports and services. Thankfully, there are many summer camps that focus on children with autism, neurodevelopmental disorders, and other special needs.
The autism summer camp offerings are quite varied – from a free surfing camp in locations around the United States to camps that focus on teaching a child how to ride a bike. National organizations like the Easter Seals often sponsor themed camps. Another resource in finding local camps is to check with the local chapter of the Autism Society of America (ASA). While the ASA might not sponsor the camps, the organization may have a list of local summer camps that can meet the needs of children on the autism spectrum.
Social Skills Groups
As with anything, practice makes perfect. This holds true for learning social skills as well. Enrolling a child in a summer social skills group is a great way for the child to continue to practice his social skills over the summer break.
Some social skills groups are made up of only children on the autism spectrum while others have typically developing peers join in as role models. Regardless of the group makeup, attending a social skills group will provide a structured learning activity for children during the summer break.
Extended school year services, autism summer camps, and organized social skills groups are three ways that parents can provide structure for their child with autism over the summer break. Once the summer is coming to an end, read the Autism Back to School Checklist for ideas on easing the transition from summer back into the school year.
This article was originally published on Suite101.com on April 21, 2009.