Ah, summer time. This is a time most of us love. We get to kick back, relax, let go of routine a little. This scenario is usually a nightmare for many people on the spectrum who like control, order and routine. Michael is one of those people. Without a schedule of what is happening, he feels lost, anxious, and generally acts out with various types of silly, aggressive or rude behaviors. What’s an exceptional parent to do to help their exceptional child enjoy summer vacation with their family? What has worked for Michael and our family are sensory tools. These sensory tools are squeeze toys or thera putty which he can mold or squeeze in his hands when he gets upset, a chewie to bite on when he is anxious, and recently, headphones for when noise overwhelms him. I also give him two therapeutic massages from time to time, brushing and compressions (Wilbargher Protocol) and Qigong, when he lets me. This is not a foolproof solution, but it has helped make things easier for Michael and us as a result. We also mark things on a calendar, use pictos or I ask Michael to draw out on paper what we will be doing on certain days and for the week.
All of us get a little out of whack on holiday. We eat more, sleep less, are completely out of routine. Sometimes we feel more tired or off from a vacation. As neuro typical people though, we find ways to balance this out. We make other types of vacation plans, or we remind ourselves that when we go back to work or back from vacation, we’ll get back to routine. It’s not such a stretch then to say that our children on the spectrum need help remembering this too. I had issues when I was a young adult with summer holidays too. I generally enjoyed the downtime, but had some moments when I felt I wasn’t being productive enough. I found ways to deal with my downtime by planning out in advance events with friends, exercising and other ways to cope. And recently in dealing with my anxieties, I see a little of what it’s like to live in Michael’s world. I am trying to give him as much control to handle his emotions properly, yet remind him that he also has to learn to go with the flow a little. That’s life.
What tools do you all use to help your children and yourselves navigate summer time? What has worked to decrease stress for you? If this is a major area of contention, I hope that you can find the right balance of sensory tools to help the entire exceptional family enjoy summer. After all, we want to teach our children to live in the moment as we do. It’s the only way to truly enjoy life. Until next time.