School holidays can be extremely stressful for families with autistic children! Children with autism spectrum disorders, although they may hate school, often thrive on routine and not going to school for a week means that they are out of routine. We have had some school holiday disasters over the years! There are some things you can do to make the holidays less stressful. Here are ten great ideas:
1. Keep to your usual routine as much as possible
Obviously I don’t mean go to school but if you can keep to the routine around the school day such as getting up, dressed, tea time etc as you normally would it will really help. Try to resist the temptation to stay in pyjamas all day and do it how you normally do!
2. Have a holiday routine
For the rest of the day, when school is normally on, come up with a loose routine you can follow each day. This could include going out for a few hours, coming home, lunch time, rest time, play time or sensory play time, story time, anything your child likes. Splitting up the day and following the same routine each day will help ease anxiety over what is going to happen next.
3. Have a visual timetable of the week and each day
Make a visual timetable with pictures that you can use to show your child what you are doing each day. Also create a visual timetable using your routine for each day. This is a series of pictures of each part of the day in the order they will happen. You can go through this with your child at the beginning of the day and then throughout the day to show them what is coming up next.
4. Explain tomorrow’s activities the day before
Consider showing your child the weekly timetable each day so they know what to expect the next day and aren’t waking up to the unknown.
5. Keep days out short
It is great to be able to take your child on trips out but try to avoid thinking of action packed trips which last all day (unless of course there is somewhere to have some down time if needed). Instead consider taking half day trips in the mornings when it is quieter and then returning home for lunch or before it gets too much for your child. You will know your child best and how much they can cope with. If you plan it this way you will feel less like you are failing when you leave early and if you plan it well you will be able to survive a trip with no meltdowns after (that might be wishful thinking!)
6. Plan rest times
If you are planning trips and busy times you will need to make sure you plan rest times too. Quieter times away from people and without too much going on. Plan these times around what ever calms your child normally. Even plan screen time into your child’s day if this is how they relax. If you have a very busy week then maybe take a whole day or every other day to stay home and chill.
7. Social stories
If you are going somewhere your child isn’t used to then consider writing a social story so your child knows what to expect. You can do some research too and find some pictures online to show your child so they will know what it looks like before they get there.
8. Plan well if you are going on trips or away for the holidays
If you are to be travelling by plane or car plan well in advance. I have written some articles you may find useful on surviving plane travel with an autistic child and surviving long car journeys with an autistic child.
Plan for day trips so you can take everything you may need such as ear defenders or snacks.
9. Plan meals and shop in advance
If your child is anything like mine then your food shopping trips might end up like this! So it could be an idea to plan the weeks food and either get it delivered or go to the shops the week before, without your child, so you know you have enough in for the week.
10. Relax and go with the flow!
Yes I am saying have a routine and go with the flow! We all know kids are unpredictable, moods change day to day, tiredness comes and goes etc. Try to stay positive, trips go wrong, meltdowns happen and so does the unpredictable. At the end of the day remember you are doing an awesome job!
There are probably a lot more great ideas out there for stress free (or relatively stress free) school holidays! If you have any then please let us know in the comments!
Thank you for taking the time to read this post. Please feel free to follow my blog or like My Facebook page which I keep up to date with new posts as they are written. I also have a closed Facebook group for sharing days out and holiday ideas and tips. You can find me on Twitter @KidsOnTour.