Autism: Just a little time left to keep them contented

Summer can feel long for families who have children with autism.  The regular routines of the school year are gone, so there can be lots of time to fill.  This is a perfect season to plan special activities and create new learning and play opportunities.  Doing something that is not part of everyday life captures kids’ attention and is just plain fun.

Try something different

Pick out some good family summer activities.  Find a picture to represent each one and put them on the refrigerator or in a special place.  Those pictures will create a menu of possible activities.  That menu will help you and your child plan your days.  It will help you remember to select different activities.  The picture menu will help your child make choices and let you know which activities are most desirable.  Here are some possibilities.


Many kids love the pool to beat the summer heat.  Many community pools offer classes for children with special needs.  This can be a great way for your child to stay cool and learn about water safety.

Vacation Bible School

Most local churches offer Vacation Bible School programs over the summer.  Many parents find this week to be a warm nurturing environment that can be very successful for their child.

Storytime at the Library

What child doesn’t love a story?  Visit your local library to see if they have storytime.  Many libraries will offer free storytime during the week. This can be a great time for your child to learn, listen, and grow!  Many libraries now have interactive toys and computer options to explore.

Riding Lessons 

If your child likes animals, try horse back riding!  Horse therapy is proving to be a very successful activity for many children with Autism or other special learning needs.  Check out a nearby farm and see what kind of lessons they offer.  Your child could groom the horses and start out with a horse on a lead line.

Play Dough

Homemade play dough is great for those rainy days when you are stuck inside all day!  Your child can use rolling pins, cookie cutters, and other toys.   Make a great big batch and divide it into smaller pieces with different colors.  It is a great “toy” both inside and out. Lots of recipes are all over the internet.


Some parks are free.  Other parks will let you purchase an annual pass for a minimal fee.  If your child likes the water, choose one with paddleboats, canoes, and beaches.  Many children will be contented for long hours playing in sand and water.  Or maybe your child has an interest in birds or animals?  Choose a park with trails or nature centers to explore.  Bring a container to catch bugs or bring some bird feed to toss to whatever critters are there.


Lots of playgrounds have fun equipment for climbing and exploring.  Try to select times and locations where there are less people and less commotion so your child will have a better experience.

Throw Stones

Find someplace by a river or lake that has stones.  It is amazing how entertaining it can be to throw stones in the water.  Of course you need to pick a place where this is OK.  That kind of environment invites relaxed child play.

Make a Tent

Use a sheet or light blanket.  Hang it over a table, between some chairs, over a rope or tied between two trees.  This “home made” tent will have a different appeal than a “real” tent.  This can be an outdoor activity or a rainy day inside thing to do.

Play with Boxes

A big box from a new appliance is a bonus!  Kids can climb in them or under them to play.  Use a knife to cut a door and windows to create a temporary playhouse.  For a variation, put a sheet over the top.  There is something very appealing about the cozy small space.  If you don’t have the opportunity for a free big box, go to one of those places that ships packages.  You should be able to buy one for a couple of dollars.  There will be lots of “play value” for those couple of dollars.

Outdoor concerts or theatre

Many communities have summer outdoor entertainment programs to enjoy.  Lots of children with ASD love the music.  The good part is that there is a high tolerance for children at these events.  You can pick a seat at the side or back so your child will not be disruptive for the event or so you can move away easily if you need to.   Or, you may find your child will be more attentive and behave better if you sit up close to the activity, right in the front row. You may need to experiment to find the right combination.

As you think of more activities available in your area, be sure to add them to your picture list. Taking advantage of summer options provides the variety necessary to keep long summer days enjoyable.




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