How to Try New Things This Summer
School is out! And our kiddos are at home for the summer.
They may have settled into routines that you’re not super excited about.
If I could guess, I would say that iPads and computers are in the mix and make up most of your child’s day.
[Side note: No judgement! It happens! And it’s a real and common issue that parents report!]
But I do know that you’re wanting to try something new with your autistic child, but just not sure how to and worry that there could be tremendous negative consequences if you do.
Today I’ll share some ideas for you to help you try out new things this summer with your child on the spectrum.
Knowing autism and your child on the spectrum, adding something new to the mix is not always a welcomed idea.
So much so that many of us are even fearful ourselves of trying something new with our kids. That they have their routines and know what they like to do and to risk a meltdown isn’t quite worth it after a long day.
But I bet you’d also agree that trying new things out is a part of living life.
And that we actually experience something new everyday and have up until now.
And thinking for yourself, whenever you are about to try out something new and different from your everyday or go somewhere new, you have an accompanying set of feelings associated with it.
Some of us are even unsure, afraid, intimidated, and get confused when we’re introduced to new things - also imagine that it’s all of a sudden, abrupt, and with little to no warning.
That’s what a lot of individuals on the autism spectrum experience on a day to day basis.
Starting out, it’s just even the concept of doing something new at the start that can be overwhelming. So, these are some ideas focused on introducing something new this summer and supporting your child in enjoying it with great success.
IDEA 1: INTRODUCE IT VIA THE VISUAL SCHEDULE
In your Visual Schedule, you can Insert the new activity or location on the schedule and review it with your child.
If you can and think it would be helpful, show some videos of the event, the experience, or the location.
That can help clear up any confusion about what the place looks like. That way they can picture it in their head.
The goal is to establish clarity about the activity so your child does not get overwhelmed when the time arrives.
IDEA 2: FIND SOMETHING ADJACENT TO WHAT THEY LIKE
Make a list of your child’s favorite things to do.
What are some things they used to do?
What are some things that you can introduce them to that are similar to their current interests and faves?
This is a great place to start to branch out on new things.
If you’re planning on going to a new location - identify what activities your child could do there that they already do now?
This is great for thinking about and planning out vacations and leisure time while you’re traveling and there.
Pro tip: Create a backup list. For if your child does not like the activity and you are out and about with your family. What are some things that you can have on hand so that when the time comes and your child is getting upset, about to have a meltdown, and/or clearly not enjoying the activity? What can be used as a descalation tool or toy to help them feel better and less stressed. Having that familiar item may help them just enough to calm down and then return to the activity or move onto the next.
Working at a summer camp - we spend a lot of time by the pool. At one point we used to go to the pool three times a day. You heard that/read that right - 3 times a day!
We kew that some campers really loved going swimming at pool at home or in their community.
But some would not take a step close to the camp’s pool at all.
We incorporated smaller pools near them. Water toys. Buckets full of water.
That way they can enjoy things they liked (also, we’re not sure if they ever were interested in these items before).
IDEA 3: TAKE IT STEP BY STEP
Even thinking about my experiences at camp above, we took to going into the pool on a step by step, day by day basis.
And sometimes we would make it to the pool. Sometimes not, but we (most importantly, the camper) would still have fun playing in the water while at Camp.
Also sometimes, your child may just surprise you.
After many years of trying to expand my brother Tyler’s food preferences.
While at a camp (same one - shout out to Camp Royall) he tried so many different new foods.
I’m talking hamburgers (before he would only eat chicken nuggets), salad (I know!), cereal, amongst many other foods. And his counselor knew his food preferences too, but accidentally grabbed a burger because that’s what was available, and away he went.
That hamburger opened so many doors.
My point is that even just changing the setting, the activity, the person/adult/family members around, your child on the spectrum may try something new...and really love it.
You know the signs with your child on what pushes them too far, but I hope these ideas help you in challenging yourself and your child to try something new and enjoying all that life has to offer, not even just this summer, but beyond.