Melissa Groves, clinical coordinator, ABA Services and Supports
Summer camp and day programs can be a great experience for all children, including those with Autism spectrum disorder (ASD). But they can come with some challenging adjustments. You can help smooth the transition by planning ahead, and these ten tips are a great starting point.
Tips for parents of children with ASD
1. Go check out the camp or program site in advance. If possible, arrange a time to meet the counselors or supervisors and visit the location so your child can feel more comfortable.
2. Ask about the schedule and create a visual schedule (i.e. pictures of the activities) to show your child what they will do throughout the day. You can review this with him or her the night before and in the morning before leaving. This will make the day more predictable.
3. If your child is a picky eater, ask for the menu ahead of time, or ask if you can send in their own lunch.
4. Make sure that your camp counselor or caregiver is aware of any help your child may need using the bathroom or being changed. Pack extra supplies if needed, as well as activity appropriate clothing.
5. Share information about allergies or risks of injury ahead of time.
6. How does your child react to different sensory input? Share specific information about things they like or dislike in advance.
7. Children with ASD communicate in various ways. Make sure that staff knows how your child communicates, and that you pack any devices they need.
8. Do you have any strategies that work really well for you? Make sure to share them with the team who will be caring for your child!
9. Consider creating an All About Me!, a collection of information to help staff learn about your child. Include all of the above information in the book.
10. Remember to acknowledge your child’s success! Being at camp or in a new program is hard work. Meeting new people, and changing routine can be difficult.
The first day of camp or a new program is likely to be the most challenging. If it doesn’t go perfectly, don’t worry! You’re doing a great thing by supporting your child through this new experience. With time and repetition, it will get easier. Remember if you have specific questions, you can always contact your care provider for support.