Making the Most of the Summer

April 1, 2014

As summer is fast approaching, many parents of children with autism are faced with the difficult decision of determining how to make the summer months optimally beneficial for their child. All children, not only children on the autism spectrum, are at risk for losing some of their recently acquired skills during the long, unstructured time of the summer. Unfortunately, for children on the autism spectrum, this “loss of skills” is extremely detrimental because it could result in becoming further and further behind their typically developing peers. Therefore, it can be quite necessary to find meaningful learning opportunities during the summer to ensure skill maintenance and acquisition.There are often many summer programs available to children with autism. These summer programs tend to range in their length and intensity. For children who are significantly behind their typically developing peers, it is often necessary to enroll in a program that is “intensive”, with intensity being defined as the number of learning opportunities that are provided in a given day. A high intensity program consists of a length of time per day similar to a regular school day. A low intensity program typically consists of a couple of hours of instruction, a few days per week. A low-intensity program is most beneficial for children with autism who are functioning similarly to their typically developing peers.At the Verbal Behavior Center for Autism, we facilitate a high-intensity summer program that focuses on establishing social skills and building academic fluency. Learning opportunities between typically developing peers and children with autism are facilitated. Typically developing peers act as peer models by modeling appropriate classroom readiness behavior such as looking at the teacher when he/she is speaking, raising one’s hand to speak out in class, taking turns, and following group instructions. Exposure to the appropriate behavior of peer models can help facilitate appropriate behavior for children with autism in a group setting.Fluency of skills acquired during the standard school-year can also be targeted as a goal during the summer months. For example, a child may have learned some basic math facts during the school-year. Therefore, an appropriate summer program goal would be to establish quick responding (fluency) with math flashcards so that a child is ready to build upon their math repertoire when returning to school in the Fall for the new school-year.Structured summer programs are often beneficial for children with autism to ensure meaningful learning opportunities. For more information about the Verbal Behavior Center for Autism’s summer program, please call 317-848-4774 or visit our website: www.vbca.org.

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