The long lazy days of summer. No structure. Nothing to do. No deadlines. Just freedom! Sounds like bliss? Not when you have a child on the autism spectrum. I have found that the worst thing I can do is have a long wide open day planned for Ryan. That’s why I developed a summer schedule. I know! Sometimes the last thing I want to do in the morning is try to come up with a schedule for the day. But I’ll let you in on little secret. When I do, it makes all the difference in the world for Ryan and me. In fact, for our entire family.
Ryan often doesn’t know what to do with his free time. He can’t be put into a room full and toys and be told to play with them, since he often doesn’t know how to play with his toys. Instead, he makes up his own activities, like drawing a map of the neighborhood on the wall with pen, putting huge gobs of my hand lotion all over his face and in his hair, or seeing what he can flush down the toilet. He also ends up having melt downs over insignificant things like losing something or hearing a car honk its horn, because he’s feeling anxious and out of control in his unstructured day..
So I came up with a summer schedule. It does not have to be fancy or large. It just needs to be easy to read and your child needs to be able to check off the activities as you go. Ryan can read, so I write his schedule. When he couldn’t read, I printed pictures from the clip art on Microsoft Word. You can also find a lot of pictures on-line if you google “picture schedule.” Sometimes I type his schedule on the computer and print it out. I also hand write it when I’m in a hurry.
Now comes the fun part. I place the schedule in a sheet protector. That way i can use the schedule over and over again. Ryan can cross off each completed activity with a dry erase marker. I like to buy the three markers for a dollar at the Dollar Tree that have little erasers attached to the cap. I can also add more details to the schedule with the marker like the date or a specific activity, then erase them and update it the next day.
Now Ryan wakes up in the morning and asks for his schedule. He likes to cross off his activities as he eats breakfast and gets dressed. This is also a good way to get Ryan to do some summer homework. Ryan usually resists doing homework, especially in the summer. But somehow, when it is written on the schedule, it becomes official.
Something clicks in his brain that he sees the activity printed in front of him, therefore he knows he has to do it. He will sit down and complete his homework, almost like magic. Also, the melt downs soon stop, since he has other things to occupy his time and he feels less anxious because he knows what’s coming next.