How to Have a Structured Summer with Your Child with ASD

Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash

Roxanne Malloy, MS BCBA, LBA

Hillcrest Educational Foundation

Bartłomiej Opaliński

Non-Public School of Behavioral Therapy for Children with Autism

After an intense year of school education and therapy, everyone’s bound to feel worn out: children, therapists, teachers, and, very likely, parents. Holidays will soon bring an opportunity for rest. Still, it’s worth thinking whether the effects of many months of therapy will be applied and reinforced during the weeks free from regular therapeutic meetings.

There are two approaches here.

On the one hand, the work of a therapist is demanding, stressful, and exhausting, and so a break that lets you recuperate your strength for the next school year will have a clear effect on your engagement in child therapy and its quality. A tired therapist is not a good therapist.

On the other hand, while it goes without saying that everybody needs a rest, a long break in therapy will, unfortunately, negatively impact generalization, maintaining skills, and behavior, as parents have difficulties keeping control over this aspect of therapy.

In Poland, most educational and therapeutic centers close down for the summer holidays. Only preschools are open despite the break, and so this is where children can continue therapy in their natural environment, supervised by professionals, who work with them on a daily basis. Holiday camps for children with autism or extra classes don’t come for free, and often involve only basic care. Therapy is out of the question during an incidental trip, when a child had not had contact with a therapist before, and furthermore, cooperation is only going to last for the holidays. An invitation for a 14-day rehabilitation camp for children with autism that starts with a consultation with a doctor and nurse, followed by therapy focusing on non-directive approach to the patient without any cognitive or behavioral methods is a joke.

How can you stimulate the development of a child in terms of their social skills, appropriate relationship with their environment, expressing their emotions, and coping with stress within just 14 days?

And what does holiday therapy for children with autism look like in the US?

My name is Roxanne Malloy and I am a Board Certified Behavior Analyst from Western, Massachusetts. I have been asked to write a brief article on the use of ABA services during the summer when kids have an extended period of time off and the benefits of taking advantage of those opportunities when schedules are less structured for children and their families.

ABA services are typically available and utilized by families year round. Just to name a couple, these services can come from day programs offered by your School District or services that are funded through your health insurance. I will touch briefly on the benefits of utilizing both opportunities during the Summer.

There are a few different reasons why families should utilize the services that are funded through insurance. One reason being that these services provide the resources to families to assist with teaching many pivotal skills to their children. Insurance also offers a parent training piece that will get the families involved in both learning and implementing the programming designed for their child and so that they too, can assist with teaching important skills to their children. This is a great opportunity for the parents in the home to have additional support when learning more about their child with autism. Though, these services are offered at no cost to the families, there is a commitment requirement and failure to meet benchmarks or comply with treatment recommendations could cost the services provided to the family and child.

Services funded through insurance are in fact offered to families during the Summer months and I highly recommend that parents continue to utilize the hours when they are able to accommodate it into their schedules. I believe this is true because by taking the Summer off, you put your child at risk of not meeting the goals that they had been working on prior to the Summer vacation beginning. You are also jeopardizing all of the progress that they have made towards goal because they will not be getting as much repetition when they take those few months off. Utilizing the hours approved by insurance during Summer months will assist you with keeping your child on a consistent schedule.

If your School District offers a day program over the Summer that is ABA based for your child, it would be wise to accept the offer so that the child can continue to have consistent and structured time over the Summer. Having them in a day program during those months will ease the transition for when it is time to go back to school in the Fall full time. Not to mention that unstructured time can be difficult for any child, but it is often more difficult for those that have a diagnosis of autism.

In conclusion, there are many things that parents can do to assist their children to get through some the unstructured time that Summer brings, but one of the most important things that parents can do is keep your child’s typical routine as consistent as possible. Though there is nothing better than consistency and structure with a child who has autism, on days that you cannot keep things consistent, you can plan activities throughout the days/weeks while also pre-teaching them of what new and exciting things might be happening so that they aren’t taken by surprise. Visual schedules and Social Stories are also extremely simple to implement and very effective when introducing new routines as other means to ensure success during some extended time off over the Summer or holiday season.

Experts recommend – summertime activities for your clients:

  1. Prepare materials for your child to use, appropriately to their needs (time and place of use and type of materials)

Don’t forget about ABA DrOmnibus!

Not familiar with the ABA DrOmnibus app yet?

www.dromnibus.com

Try it out for free.

  1. Use the holiday season to build relationships, especially during trips and meetings together.

See our plan for holidays, featuring therapeutic games that many children with autism and their siblings have already tried out successfully: play them by the sea, in the forest, in the city, or at home. Our games will also help your children prepare for a trip by plane, car, or train.

How to Have a Structured Summer with Your Child – click for tips and activities.

  1. Be prepared to face difficult situations when your children meet new friends who might not understand autism. Help them all overcome the barriers related to autism –

Take DrOmnibus for the holidays – continue the therapy and increase its effectiveness!

About authors: 

Roxanne Malloy, MS BCBA, LBA at Hillcrest Educational Foundation located in Lenox, MA. Holding various positions ranging from a Teacher’s Assistant, a Teacher in a Life Skills classroom with young adults and have been practicing as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst since November of 2015.

Bartłomiej Opaliński – Special educator, didactic manager at the Non-Public School of Behavioral Therapy for Children with Autism in Wroclaw.

*Paid content by DrOmnibus.

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