Each change of season brings a new set of challenges and opportunities for children with autism. The summer, in particular, often involves potential stressors as well as opportunities for increasing skills and gaining new experiences in a way that is supportive of the well-being of kids with ASD. ABA therapists can utilize the summer months to support the growth and development of the children they work with who receive applied behavior analysis services.
ABA service providers can consider the naturally occurring learning opportunities that arise in the summer to help their clients work toward and achieve their goals. Let’s explore some recommendations and resources that ABA therapists can use to support individuals with autism spectrum disorder.
Challenges Children with Autism May Experience in the Summer
First, it’s important to be aware of the challenges that children with autism might experience during the transition into the summer as well as throughout the summer season.
Change in Routine and Expectations
Summer is a time of change for most families. Children with autism might struggle with this change. Children with ASD often find comfort in routine and knowing what to expect. When summer comes, schedules often change and children have new expectations placed upon them.
Children with autism might struggle with this transition. Children with ASD might also experience sensory overload in various ways during the summer such as the overwhelming sensory input they might experience attending family gatherings, watching fireworks, going on vacations, and more.
Lack of Sensory Input
On the other hand, children with ASD might not experience enough structure or not enough sensory input. With a lack of sensory input – such as not having enough activities to do throughout the day and getting “bored” often – children might display more challenging behaviors due to the difficulty in self-regulation and challenges with initiating and following through on leisure activities independently.
How ABA Therapists Can Support Children with ASD During the Summer
Although each child is unique and will benefit from an individualized approach to helping them work toward their goals during the summer, there are some recommendations that ABA therapists might consider when it comes to supporting kids with ASD during this season.
When possible, ABA therapists can encourage kids with autism to spend time outdoors. Of course, safety should be the top priority – ABA therapists need to be sure that kids are safe at all times and they should create a safety plan to address and prevent any potential issues (such as elopement) that might arise. However, if it is appropriate for the individual child, having them spend time outdoors is an excellent way to support their overall well-being and development during the summer.
ABA therapists might consider having therapy sessions outdoors. ABA therapists who have access to an outdoor space or who have the option to take clients on field trips to a local park or outdoor activity could consider incorporating this into their services. Also, ABA therapists who provide services in the client’s home could incorporate more outdoor time during their sessions when appropriate for the child they are working with.
Research shows the many benefits of being outdoors. It can improve mood and physical health, reduce challenging behaviors, support gross motor and social skills, and much more.
Summer Activities for Children with ASD
There are many activities that ABA therapists can incorporate into their sessions with children with autism that are particularly relevant for the summertime and that also have many benefits for development and skill acquisition. Here are a few examples:
- Having a Picnic: Children with autism can learn many skills while having a picnic. Goals related to meal time and eating can be explored while having a picnic. Other skills that can be incorporated into the activity of having a picnic include social skills (like having conversations) and following directions (like taking care of dishes and trash).
- Playing in the Sand: Playing in the sand – whether its in a sandbox at home or at the park or in sand at the beach – can have many benefits for children with ASD. This can be a positive sensory experience for many children with autism. It can also support fine motor skill development and coordination particularly when materials like shovels and buckets are used in the play. Playing in sand can also offer children opportunities to practice social skills and communication skills. Consider how you can incorporate skills like turn-taking or initiating and maintaining conversations in sand play for the children you are helping.
- Water Play: Again, safety is of the utmost importance. With that being said, playing in water in various ways is a great summer activity for children with autism. Playing in the water could include playing in a water table, playing in a sprinkler in the child’s backyard, going swimming in a pool, or going to the beach. If possible, it is a great idea to teach children to swim so they can stay safe in and near water. Spending time in water can be a great sensory experience. It can offer opportunities for developing social skills, gross motor and fine motor skills, and can support a child’sduration of engaging in leisure activities independently.
- Hiking: Taking children on walks in nature is a summer activity that can provide countless benefits. Some children will end up really enjoying this activity. They can also take in and process different types of sensory experiences such as the sounds, sights, smells, and textures found in nature. They can work on receptive and expressive identification of stimuli found in nature. Getting exercise is also great for behavioral and mental health. It can improve mood and reduce challenging behaviors, as well.
Data Collection for Summer ABA Therapy Activities
When helping children with autism spectrum disorder work toward their therapeutic goals, it is essential to collect data on their performance toward these goals. You might consider using a platform like Catalyst to do this. Catalyst offers many different options to individualize your data collection for each client. It can be really helpful to find a data collection method that is easy-to-use especially during the summer months when you are doing a lot of natural environment training and activities that require a lot of moving around.
Catalyst can help with making data collection easier. Some of the data collection methods they offer include discrete trials, cold probe, whole and partial interval recording, task analysis, video sampling, and even naturalistic data collection.
Learn more about Catalyst and how they can help you with your data collection processes by trying a free trial or demo here.