Top 10 Summer Activities for Children on the Autism Spectrum
By: Kelly Taylor, BCaBA, Director of Charleston Clinic
School is out and summer is here! This is an exciting time for children but can be a stressful few months for parents who have to create new ways to fill the long days. This time off from school and daily routines can be especially challenging for a parent who has a child on the autism spectrum because lack of structure can sometimes trigger changes in behavior.
There are several ways you can fill your days with fun to help keep your child engaged, entertained and content.
- Plan a disco party. Turn on some music and encourage children to dance away. This is a great way to teach children how to imitate others, learn the latest dance craze or how to request their favorite tune. To add extra fun, buy some glow sticks and turn out the lights.
- Host a character day. Ask your child to dress like their favorite movie, book or television character. Pop some popcorn and let them watch their character on television or through the pages of a book. If your child doesn’t have a favorite character, I recommend watching the movie Inside Out. Check out this interesting article that explains how to teach children about feelings using scenes from the movie.
- Create water games. The summer days are often hot, and children enjoy cooling off with water balloons and squirt guns. This is a fun activity with friends so host a playdate, provide all the children with water-filled toys and let them play. Don’t forget sunscreen.
- Go to a movie.In the summer many cities offer movie tickets at a discounted rate. A real movie theatre experience is not only an adventure but you can use it as an opportunity for your child to practice skills in a different setting. Waiting in line to get tickets, saying “hello” to a worker, ordering food and staying seated are all great skills to work on in this setting. Make sure to check your local theaters to see if they are offering sensory friendly movies. This is a perfect activity for a rainy summer day.
- Learn yoga. All children can benefit from exercise, but not all children enjoy sports and traditional gross motor activities. Yoga can be a great alternative way to increase activity during the summer. Check out this book specifically about yoga for children on the autism spectrum.
- Make homemade ice cream. Ice cream is always a summer favorite, but did you know you can make it in a bag? I didn’t until I read this article. This summer activity is sure to be a hit.
- Set up an arts and craft station. Don’t be too concerned about the end product. Instead work with your child to use paint, glue, glitter, pom poms, etc., to create whatever they want. If your child does not like arts and crafts, include reinforcers to encourage participation. If your child does like arts and crafts ask he/she for suggestions on activities.
- Go on a scavenger hunt. This is the perfect game when you need to fill a lot of time. You can plan a nature themed hunt that’s outside or have your child search for common household items if it’s a rainy day. If your child needs practice with features, functions, or classes this is also a great activity. You can add instructions like, “find something round”, “find something you brush with”, or “find something that’s an art supply” to ensure they are utilizing the skills they’ve learned in therapy or school.
- Go on an “impossible mission.” Use red yarn to create “laser beams” in between furniture and walls. Play the theme song to Mission Impossible and teach your child how to bend and stretch to avoid the lasers. This game encourages activity and will help teach your child how to follow directions.
- Create a sensory game. Purchase some plastic bins at the dollar store and fill them with various sensory friendly textures. You can fill these with rice, shaving cream, cereal, pom poms, beads, noodles, etc. and add small toys and foam shapes or letters to find.
The summers go by fast so try to relax and enjoy the time. A little planning and some creativity will help ensure a fun-filled summer with your children.