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Surviving Summer with Autism Spectrum Disorder

 These surviving summer tips are brought to you by Nancy Popkin and Kim Tizzard, Autism Society of North Carolina Parent Advocates. Do you have any tips to share? Post them in the comments section below!

Summer Challenges:

  • Change in schedule / routine
  • Sensory challenges
  • Travel
  • Extended family members who don’t understand autism


Summer Survival Solutions


Every Day:

  • Build routine into your days (regular waking, eating, etc. times)
  • Make a calendar showing special (and mundane) events
  • Use visual schedules
  • Consider your child’s interests and plan outings that include special interests. 
  • Consider skills to keep fresh (academic) and skills to work on (self-help, daily living) during the summer months.  Build these into the routine of the day.  


Day Trips and Longer Travel:

  • Visualize exactly what you will be doing with your child with ASD.  Consider situations that may entice or present a challenge.  These include sensory concerns (noises, visuals, smells), boundaries or lack there of, temptations or distractions.
  • Call ahead to inquire about above.
  • Communicate with family members ahead of time and explain your child’s needs.  Let them know if you will be bringing any special foods or equipment to help your child feel comfortable.
  • Have accessible/make portable any tools or supplies necessary to assist or assure smooth travels: *Schedules   *Visual Communication Systems  *Calming Tools  *Snacks   *Change of clothes  *Medications
  • Have an Emergency Plan.  How will you communicate your child’s needs to anyone who may assist?  How will someone identify your child? (carry a picture of your child).
  • Use written social scenarios to help your child visualize new social situations or activities and how to handle them.


Sample Schedule:


Fourth of July Schedule

7:30am   Wake Up


Get dressed

Choice Time

11:00am  Car to GrandDad and

Grandma’s house


Play outside / water fight

with cousins


5:00 pm  Cook out dinner

7:00 pm  Car to park

9:00 pm  Fireworks

Car to home

11:00pm  Bed

Sample Social Scenario:

Watching Fireworks on the Fourth of July

On the Fourth of July, many people like to see fireworks.  My family goes to GrandDad and GrandMa’s house to see fireworks.  We ride in the car to the park and wait for it to get dark.  When it gets dark the fireworks begin.  The fireworks have bright lights and loud sounds.  I like the bright lights but sometimes I do not like the loud sounds.  If the loud sounds bother me, I can put on my headphones.  It is okay to not like the loud sounds but using my headphones makes the loud sounds quiet and I can try to watch the pretty lights.




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No Responses

  1. Excellent points, all!

    I\’d add scheduled down time/respite for the adults as well. In my years working for the schools, I\’ve met countless (or so it seems!) summer-frazzled parents who have little time for themselves and minimal support. It\’s too bad that respite support isn\’t available to many parents.

  2. aleasha says:

    I am soo scared about 4th of july with my son headphones is a great ideal is there a certain type that would work better..

  3. mahanjk says:

    Aleasha: there are some headphones marketed as \”noise cancelling\” meaning that they block outside noises. Ones that fit over the outside ear (instead of inside it) will block more noise. These are usually padded where they cover the ear. If its possible for your son to go with you go to a store where there is an opportunity to try them on, you can also see if they are comfortable, otherwise you might just need to buy a pair and see if they work.

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