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  • Writer's pictureHannah's Hope

Summer Fun.

Summertime can be filled with so much fun or so. much. stress. It is probable that this increase in stress is brought on by school letting out, routines being changed, and temperatures rising. A child with autism, specifically, may struggle with the drastic change in schedule and routine. However, summertime can also serve as a wonderful opportunity to explore the outdoors, try new sensory activities, and enjoy the relaxed pace of the season. Maureen Bennie, a well-known author and the creator of the Autism Awareness Centre, wrote a blog article titled, "Sensational Summer - Sensory and Movement Activities to Reduce Stress and Improve Sensory Processing" in order to give parents of neurodivergent children a useful list of things that they can do this summer to hopefully keep the peace and enjoy this wonderful time of year. The first thing that Bennie suggests is to introduce seasonal foods through cooking and gardening activities. Bennie did this with her son by allowing him to volunteer at the local farmer's market and take a horticulture class. Both of these helped him meet the growers, come in contact with new foods without the stimulation of the grocery store environment, and learn to like foods that his mother thought he never would. Gardening can also help a child develop fine and gross motor skills. Wheelbarrowing, digging, pulling weeds, raking, watering, planting seeds, pinching plants, and picking are all good examples of what can be done in the garden to help a child build dexterity and ability. The second thing you can do this summer is outdoor sensory play. Bennie lists several idea for inexpensive ways to explore outside that don't cause too much mess and fuss. You could create a sandbox, implement water play, blow bubbles, draw on the sidewalk or pavement with chalk, or play games like "velcro ball toss" or "zoom ball" which Bennie provides links and explanations for in her post. Movement activities are another great form of physical activity that reduce stress and anxiety and support regulation. Obstacle courses, hide and go seek, instrument making and forming your own marching band, treasure hunts and bike riding are just some of the easy and fun ideas that Bennie lists in her article. If your child is not used to a lot physical activity and you need to start light to get them interested in moving, you can try asking them to walk to the mailbox, walk the dog, walk to school, park or library, or you can start a new family routine of playing a game of basketball or catch before or after dinner. It may even be a good idea to try implementing "body breaks" throughout the day. This could be jumping on a trampoline, having a dance party, hopscotch, or whatever your child is interested in that would be good for them to get their mind and body moving during the day. The ideas that Bennie lists in her blog are inexpensive and easy ways to create some structure and activity into your long summer days. Being outside improves physical, mental, and emotional well-being as well as improved sleep at night. For children who thrive on routine and structure, working outdoor activities into your weekly schedules is a great way to practice some flexibility as weather may force you to move to "plan b." All in all, each child deserves the chance to get outside and enjoy the beautiful weather that summer provides and the examples in Bennies' post provide a simple framework for encouraging your child to enjoy this season and get moving.

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