How to Help Your Teen Transition from School to Summer

Transitions are difficult for some teens with an autism spectrum disorder.  A transition that is like going from the school year into summer vacation can be very stressful for some teens, as much of their day structure is being taken away.  There are many things you can do to help your teen transition to summer break so that he or she can enjoy a great summer with less anxiety.
  1. Prepare ahead of time- Prepare way in advance of summer break.  Talk to your teen about what the summer means and what he or she will be doing over the summer, whether it is summer programming, camp, more free time, etc.  Let the teen know that the weather may be hotter and there may be more time to go outside and school will not happen for a few months.  Creating a social story about summer break sometimes helps.  List some of the fun things the teen can do in it.
  2. Create a calendar for your teen to mark off– Having a calendar for your teen to mark days off is sometimes helpful so he or she has a visual representation of how many days of summer break are left and when school will start again.
  3. Make a fun list with your teen– Sometimes it helps to talk about and discuss all of the fun activities that your teen will have time to do with his or her free time in summer. For those teens who like to see visual representations, make a collage or poster about it.
  4. Create structure- Work with your teen to create a schedule every day.  The teen can pick out what activities he or she wants to do from a b\variety of items and put those activities on a daily schedule.  This is a great tool for visual representation and self-determination and choice making.
  5. Spread out the potentially stressful events– sometimes it is easier for teens with autism to ease into things gradually.  If your family is planning many family events this summer, try to spread them out so they are not happening right in top of each other.  This will give your teen time to process one event before the next one happens.
  6. Have a plan if things get ugly– if your teen is at any event and gets overstimulated, always have a back up plan that includes a safe place for you and your teen to get to in the event of a tantrum.  This should be a place with little sensory stimulation, a good temperature and quiet so the teen can chill out and re-group.
Being prepared ahead of time is the best defense you and your teen can have for a large transition like summer break.  With a little preparation and effort, your teen can have an awesome summer full of fun and meaningful activities!