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Supporting Neurodiversity This Summer

Supporting Neurodiversity This Summer

Children with neurodiverse conditions often experience the world differently, and these differences can become particularly  pronounced during the summer. This season brings a break from the structured routine of school, offering both opportunities and challenges for neurodiverse children and their families.

Here are some ways to support your neurodiverse children this summer:

Changes in Routine and Structure:

Many neurodiverse children thrive on predictability and structured environments. The transition from the regular schedule of school to the more relaxed and often unpredictable summer can be challenging.

You can develop a daily or weekly schedule that includes a mix of activities. Visual schedules with pictures and timelines can be especially helpful for younger children or those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Keeping certain elements of the school routine, such as consistent meal times and bedtimes, can also provide stability.

Sensory Processing and Regulation:

Summer activities, such as visits to crowded places like amusement parks or busy public pools, can overwhelm children with sensory processing issues.

Changes in environment and activity levels can disrupt a child’s ability to self-regulate, leading to meltdowns or shutdowns.

Opt for activities that match your child's sensory preferences, like quiet nature walks or calm indoor play spaces. 

If visiting a loud, crowded place, bring along tools like noise-cancelling headphones, fidget toys, or weighted blankets to help your child manage sensory input.

Learning and Skill Retention:

The summer break can lead to a loss of academic skills, known as the "summer slide." This can be particularly concerning for neurodiverse children who may already face learning challenges.

School-year therapies (like speech or occupational therapy) may not continue through the summer, potentially slowing progress.

Engage in educational yet fun activities like reading together, educational games, or exploring science in the kitchen or backyard.

Continue therapies if possible, or find specialised summer programs that offer academic or therapeutic support.

Social Interactions and Peer Relationships:

Summer offers more opportunities for social interactions through summer schools, playdates, and community activities. However, neurodiverse children might struggle with these interactions due to difficulties in social communication or understanding social cues. Without the built-in social environment of school, some children may feel isolated if they don’t have structured social opportunities.

Arrange regular playdates with understanding friends or small groups to help maintain social connections. Look for summer schools or programs designed for, or inclusive of, neurodiverse children. These environments often have staff trained to support diverse needs.

Emotional and Behavioural Regulation:

The combination of heat, schedule changes, and varying activity levels can affect emotional regulation. Children may experience mood swings or increased frustration.

Use the summer to work on coping strategies and self-regulation skills. This might include breathing exercises, mindfulness, or specific sensory tools.

Clearly communicate daily plans and expectations to help your child understand what’s coming next, reducing anxiety and potential behavioural issues.

Physical Activity and Health:

The summer break can lead to either a significant increase or decrease in physical activity, depending on the child's interests and the family’s schedule.

Engage in activities that promote movement, like swimming, biking, or even structured play. Adapt these activities to your child’s comfort and preferences.

Keep regular meal and snack times with healthy options, and ensure sufficient sleep to support overall well-being.

Planning and Communication:

Summer often involves more family outings or holidays abroad, which can be stressful for neurodiverse children due to new environments and routines. Some children may struggle to communicate their needs or discomfort in unfamiliar settings.

Prepare your child for trips or outings by discussing what to expect, using social stories, and involving them in packing and planning.

If your child uses communication aids, ensure these are accessible and practice how to use them in new settings.

Learn more about understanding neurodiversity here.