Summertime Tips

Summertime Relaxation

Tips for the Summer

Summertime can be both wonderful and stressful for kids with sensory issues and their families. Why do some kids seem to regress over the summer while others zoom ahead? Changes in routine, unfamiliar activities, food, faces, places, and sounds can make it very hard for sensitive kids to relax and enjoy themselves. All the work you and any therapists your child have been doing shouldn’t fall apart over the summer. Your child can have fun and keep continuing to develop sensory processing, fine motor, gross motor, self-help, and academic skills with a little help. Here are a few tips:

Don’t let go of all structure

While it may feel great for us to drop daily routines like waking up early, getting dressed quickly, and having a full schedule each day, many children with sensory challenges crave predictability and thrive on such routines. Studies show that kids today do not get enough sleep. During vacations, it’s tempting to discontinue early-to-bed, early-to-rise routines. While you may adjust wake-up and bedtime so your child can get more sleep, don’t go overboard. Adjust sleep/wake cycles slightly, but then stick to a predictable schedule to help your child stay organized and self-regulated.

Keep up systems and strategies that work during the school year. Use a calendar to plan activities and and mark off each day of vacation so your child can anticipate what’s next and when he or she will return to school. If your child is overwhelmed by sudden changes in plans, let your child know what to expect each day and limit unnecessary transitions and chores.

Keep building skills

Now’s the perfect time to introduce dot-to-dot books, mazes, how to draw books, craft kits, scissor skills workbooks and other cool activities you’ll find in the Toys & Equipment section of this website.

Set up an art studio in your backyard by putting out an old shower curtain or tarp and let kids have fun with paint, clay, shaving cream, or another messy materials. While sensory seekers will love this, tactile sensitive kids may be more comfortable using a paintbrush or gloves.

With fewer clothes to put on and take off, now is a great time to increase independence with dressing. Sequence the task by breaking it down into simple steps. To teach a child how to put on a tee-shirt all by herself, start by helping her to orient the shirt correctly and then to put it on “one arm, head, other arm.” Then teach her how to orient the shirt so the front goes on to the front of her body. Teach her to look in the mirror to check whether she put on her clothes correctly. It helps to have a decoration on the front of a shirt, shorts, or dress so she can check whether she sees it in the mirror.

Keep up your sensory diet (see the sensory diet activities page), though you may change what you are doing. Great summer activities that provide wonderful sensory input are limitless, but include:

Outdoor challenges

Sunlight, wind, grass, sand, and buzzing insects can pose big challenges for a sensitive child in the summer. Swimming, with its even hydrostatic deep pressure, is one of the greatest sensory activities on the planet. Warm water, either still water or with even small rhythmic waves, typically relaxes body and mind. Cool water, especially with waves, invigorates and activates.

Here are some summertime sensory smart tips to help you and your child:

You’ll find lots more practical advice in our book!

Check out Lindsey Biel’s article on summertime challenges in AutismFile

Very best wishes for a happy, fun summer!

See Raising a Sensory Smart Child for more on advocating for your child at school, handling holidays and parties, and practical solutions for issues such as grooming, dressing, picky eating, and more.

© 2011 Lindsey Biel