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Piece by Piece: Lazy Days of Summer Equal Stress

The carefree days of summer for most children are often very stressful for children with autistic spectrum disorders. My son Peter is 10 and just finished the fourth grade. We are fortunate enough to be in a school district that provides a summer program which keeps his many therapies and routines in sync for the summer.

I sometimes hate that Peter has been going to school year-round since he is in pre-school, but then I see him out of his routine for a few weeks and know that he desperately wants it back. He is glad for the summer breaks, but he is also grateful that they are not long.

Peter actually has all his days off marked on the calendar. He counts down to his break and then counts down to heading back to school. The summer program began after the Fourth of July, so he had a short break and then goes back to school until mid-August.

The Lakeland School District understands that summer is meant to keep routine, but be summer. They work in opportunities to swim for the older grades or go in the sprinkler for the younger grades. Homework is not given and Fridays include some games after lunch.

Peter relishes these summer activities. He has been talking about them since April. He has also been planning which days we will pick him up rather than have him ride the bus. Again, I know that routine means a great deal to Peter. We often choose a day or two in the summer that we pick him up so that we can start family time a bit earlier on those days. It gives him a break from his routine while creating a subroutine that keeps him in a comfort zone. Peter knows the weekend starts a bit early on Fridays when we get him at school.

This summer I may try to add another change or two to his school year routines to see how he handles them. I find little steps toward independence and flexibility give him the opportunity to accept them and truly find a place that is carefree, the way summer should be.

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