For many families, summer brings changes in routine, and includes more unstructured time. The transition from a structured school environment to the relaxed days of summer may pose challenges for some children with autism. The strategies below can help families navigate the transition and make the most of the summer season together. 

A family outside during summer.

Tips for Maintaining Routines and Creating Structure 

  1. Help Your Child Make a Gradual Transition: Before summer break begins, talk to your child about how summer days will look different from the days they spend in school. Discuss your family’s vacation, activity, or camp plans if you have them. Gradually adjust their bedtime and morning routines as needed to align with the summer schedule. 

  2. Create Visual Schedules: Use visual schedules to help children understand and anticipate daily activities. Include both structured and unstructured time, such as time spent getting ready for the day, playtime, meals, outings, and quiet time. 

  3. Maintain Consistency: Keep your daily routines as consistent as you can. Predictable mealtimes, bedtime routines, and designated activity times can provide your child with a sense of stability during the transition. 

  4. Make Time for Physical Activity: The combination of summer temperatures and relaxed schedules can make it tempting for children to stay sedentary. Incorporate time for swimming or other physical activities into your day to help your child stay healthy and regulate their sleep schedule. 

  5. Set Goals and Expectations: If new routines, activities, or environments are a part of your child’s summer, clearly communicate expectations for behavior and participation in activities. New experiences can be overwhelming for children with autism, but caregivers can ease the process by setting achievable goals for the day and providing positive reinforcement for completing tasks. 

  6. Sensory-Friendly Activities: Consider the sensory needs of your child when planning activities. Incorporate sensory-friendly activities such as swimming, nature walks, arts and crafts, or sensory play. If your child is sensitive to noises, crowds, or other elements in the environment, determine what you can do to minimize or avoid those sensitivities. 

By maintaining routines and structuring summer days with intentionality and flexibility, caregivers can create a supportive environment that promotes growth, learning, and enjoyment for children with autism. At Cortica, we're here to support you every step of the way as you navigate the joys and challenges of the summer months with your child.