Although summer is commonly considered a time of relaxation and cheerfulness, it can easily become a time of stress and chaos for children battling neurobehavioral issues, such as ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorders or Asperger’s. The change to a summer routine can create anxiety and result in tantrums, leaving children upset and parents feeling helpless. To counter these concerns, below are some preventative measures parents can implement to ensure a happier summer for all.
1. Keep a Schedule – Whether it’s a written schedule or one with pictures for younger kids, your child will feel calmer and safer knowing what is coming next. During summer break, it can be more difficult to give your child a concrete schedule since activities can be short-lived or even spontaneous. For the parts of your day that are open-ended, try adding a block of time to your child’s schedule called “open play” or use a question mark to indicate the time slot has yet to be filled. Discuss the schedule regularly and provide details for spontaneous events as they arise. Also, always let your child know which events will take place outdoors and which will be loud or crowded. Helping a child understand their day makes for an easier transition.
2. Use a Code Word – Choose a code word your child can use if he/she feels overwhelmed and needs a break. Assure your child that if he/she uses the code word, you will respond immediately. Again, giving children some control during activities that may be over-stimulating will reduce anxiety. A code word can be particularly helpful during parades or at your neighborhood’s crowded pool.
3. Have a Family Meeting – Before you attend parties, parades, or other outings, have a quick family meeting so your whole family knows how long you plan to stay and how you expect them to behave. This will benefit neuro-typical children as well, since any child can get overstimulated from summertime excitement.
4. Make Sleep a Priority – Continue to make your child’s sleep schedule a priority even during the summer. It is still important to establish consistent sleep and wake times throughout the season. Revert to your school schedule two to three weeks before classes begin so your child is well-rested and ready to learn.
5. Plan Ahead – Children with significant sensory sensitivities may require a little extra planning to enjoy summer activities. For example, you may need to bring along ear plugs if you will be in a noisy environment. For sensitive kids who need to wear bathing suits or other potentially aggravating attire, bring along soft, comfortable clothes for them to change into as soon as they’re done swimming. Be prepared by knowing your child’s specific limitations and how you will handle them if the need arises. Don’t wait for the meltdown to begin.
6. Be Inclusive – If your family members have food sensitives or allergies that prevent them from eating summertime treats, plan ahead to offer alternatives like all-natural candy or a gluten-free treat from home. Children with neurobehavioral disorders often feel different already, so make an extra effort to include them in as many activities as possible.
As you implement these methods to prevent breakdowns, it is important to meanwhile encourage regular physical activity. Kids with learning and behavioral problems often have issues with processing and motor skills. Finding sensory activities your kids enjoy can help fill long summer days while improving motor planning and processing skills. Read More