The time of year where we can let the bedtime routine go. The time of year when the sun is hot, the pool feels welcoming, and fresh fruits taste amazing! This is the time that most of look forward to all year!
But, for families of autism, summer can be the most stressful, nerve-wracking, patience-disturbing time of all.
Our kiddos with autism crave control and structure. It is in their DNA. This is why they love school so much. School is a bubble. It is a test tube of endless lists and tasks that are implemented by teachers that are trained to do such things. Home is a battleground of pesky siblings (who know the autistic's every button to push) and of over-tired parents who are just trying not to drown in their own problems of keeping it all together.
As one mom said to me in tears, "why can't I seem to get it together enough to have the good report that my son's teachers seem to have of him?" In other words, why do our children seem to behave better at school than they do with us at home?
I have a few theories about this:
-First of all, as stated earlier, school has all the resources needed to set these little people up for success. There are at least 2-3 more adults in the room than at home. (hello!! Wouldn't we all love at least 4 more sets of hands at home?) There are other children that are NOT related to them that can distract them from whatever is bothering them in the moment. (aaaaauuuuhhhhhh!! This shirt has a tag in it!!) Also, this is what these certifiably insane people have SIGNED UP to do in life. Yes! They have signed up to teach/corral/herd these children by CHOICE! So that means that they have had more training and (hopefully) more patience than you ever will. They can be almost perfect with scheduling because they have to in order to keep more than three children alive!
-Secondly, our children will always be more well-behaved with strangers. This is a good thing! We want our kids to act out with us because then we know they feel safe. We tend to "show our butts" when we feel like we can. We are our truest selves with those that we know will not abandon us.
-Thirdly, these teachers can do all of their schedules, ABA appropriate rigors, and rule-keeping because THEY GET TO GO HOME AT THE END OF THE DAY.
Let's just cut to the chase. Summer is hard. Breaks are hard. So here are a few things I have found to help make it through.
1. Every summer when Liam was younger I poured over websites of churches and camps to see who would be able to handle my little bundle of joy. Sometimes my searches came up short, but I eventually landed on a YMCA camp through Easter Seals. This would be more geared for elementary age children through high school, but well worth looking into to see if they have a program that would work for your child. We also did Vacation Bible Schools-several of them! It could be that a particular church has a ministry for special needs children. Or, maybe you could volunteer to go with your child and act as an aid for others. Obviously, if you're looking for a break, that is not the best option, but if you are looking for something to get you and your child out of the house, it could be ideal.
2. Schedule your down time!! This is my least favorite. By now, if you've kept up with this blog you know how much I hate schedules. But, for everyone's sanity, I would at least try to have a skeleton of a schedule for each day. Your schedule may have a large amount of digital activity on there (i.e. THANK YOU, JESUS, FOR IPADS!) This is okay. We're in summer mode and their brains are not going to rot if they watch several shows in a row. This is parenting bootcamp, let's not kill ourselves here.
|How do they come out of the womb knowing how to do technology?!|
3. (in the same vein) Let go of Mommy/Daddy guilt. This may be your hardest task yet. Let go of trying to have it all together. You're exhausted, and so are they. If you need a nap, plug in the iPad and let that be their quiet time. Stop comparing yourself to their teachers and other parents on Facebook. Trust me, they're using the iPad too. That's how they have time to post on Facebook.
4. I realize that not all parents may have the luxury of taking a trip. Maybe a trip is the worst thing in the world for your family. Maybe it's just easier staying at home. BUT, every summer, we would plan a trip to the beach with my parents. I can say that I have been blessed with two people who, are not perfect, but love my children well and do pretty good with having them around. They have had to learn, like we all have, to roll with the punches and parent a little differently than maybe they did with me. This is a week that we always look forward to because it allows us to get away from our norm and rest. I encourage all of my readers to take the time to find rest--and water. Water is healing and may be the one thing that helps calm your little one.
|Nashville Public Library Story Time|
6. EAT LOTS OF ICE CREAM
7. Remember to laugh at yourselves.
8. Phone a friend.
9. Let go of household chores for maybe one day. (or 5)
10. Be kind to yourself.
Wake up. Repeat.