Summer Activities for Autistic Kids
Autistic kids and teenagers benefit from structure, so a fully unstructured summer is less than ideal. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that autistic kids should have every day of their summer completely planned out! Please, please allow them some time to just be kids and watch tv and play video games! But maintaining some kind of schedule is good for sleep and mood, and activities with other kids will keep social skills working while they’re out of school. It can be very tempting for autistic kids to retreat into their rooms with their books or video games for the summer, but it really is better for them to find something to do for some of the time. Luckily, there are tons of options for summer activities for autistic kids that cater to all kinds of interests.
I know, I know, this is a lot of people’s least favorite thing, but it really is necessary. Simply for safety reasons, kids need to learn to swim. A lot of autistic people hate getting water in their faces, so this can be really challenging, but one-on-one teaching instead of regular classes can help them progress at their own pace. Every other day or once a week lessons can also help manage anxiety and overload. And it doesn’t have to go on all summer – just a little progress is enough if that’s all that happens. Don’t stress everyone out when you can try again next year.
Coding/Video Game Camps
This is a great option for kids who are really into video games or computers. Who wouldn’t want to build their own game or app? Teens who are already capable coders may find advanced camps that can start them on the path to college credit or professional certification. There might be a little less socialization in these groups than in some of the others, but you can’t beat a step toward a career!
If you have a band geek in your family, you know that band camp is the highlight of the summer! It’s a wonderful opportunity for kids to spend time with other kids who are also into music. They’ll likely already know some people there, plus they can meet new friends with similar interests, so it’s kind of perfect. Band camps are usually overnight camps, so keep that in mind. For a kid who prefers other kinds of music, look for guitar or rock camps, or piano intensives. Check any nearby college with a music program.
This is one of my favorites, and not just because I’m a theatre geek! As I’ve mentioned before, drama classes helped me immensely with my social skills and communication. Drama camps involve not only acting work, but collaboration with others to create scenes and performances. This can range from practicing lines with other kids to building sets and props, all of which will build skills and confidence. For a kid who loves theatre or movies, this can be a great way to spend a couple of weeks.
There are so many science camps out there, any kid with a scientific interest can find something they love. For those who like to build, check out robotics or engineering. Those more into the outdoors can look for nature camps, which may have overnight or day options depending on age group. Physics, astronomy, aerospace engineering – whatever a kid’s interest, there’s bound to be something for them. Check with your local college for their offerings.
Arts and Crafts Classes
Your local craft store probably has lots of classes for kids of various ages. They may run once a week or there may be a longer program for larger projects. Kids can learn all kinds of crafts, from knitting and crochet to painting and jewelry making and more. This is a great option for younger kids who need shorter bursts of socialization or who are still developing manual dexterity. It’s also good for kids who need more downtime between classes.
Most dance studios run on the same schedule as the local school year, but in the summer, many offer intensive sessions that run several days a week for a few weeks. This is how I got started in dance and it was a great help to me in learning to control my body and develop grace. Personally, I highly recommend this for kids who have coordination issues. If a kid isn’t into dance, martial arts classes can also help them develop control and confidence.
All these are great ideas to help autistic kids and teenagers maintain their social skills and keep some structure over the summer. Again, though, don’t overschedule! Just because there are lots of options doesn’t mean that kids need to be booked all summer. This is just a smattering of what’s out there to choose from. Ask around a bit and you’re sure to find some great summer activities that autistic kids and teens will enjoy.
What were your favorite summer activities as a kid? Did you ever find that your social skills slipped over summers when you didn’t see other people much? Did you ever manage to learn to swim? (So far, I still haven’t.)