The school year seems pretty crazy while you’re going through it… assemblies, meetings, field trips… but in reality, it is such a wonderful base for all routines. Up at the same time, in bed at the same time, eat at the same time, on and off the bus at the same time… it’s perfect. Well, as close to perfect as you might get.
Then the school year is over and summer time attacks your routine like a lion attacking red meat. The sun is up earlier, the sun goes down later, meals are rarely when they should be, you wake up and go to bed at different times daily and worst of all, you have no clue what day it is!
It’s strange too, because I do work Monday to Friday and yet I still find myself having no clue what day of the week it is most of the time.
So what’s the big deal?
Well, when you have a child with Autism, it is a very big deal. Routine is paramount to keep the meltdowns in check.
What happens is so gradual that you may not even notice it happening until it’s too late and very likely, you won’t put the two together as a cause and effect situation… but in time, your child will start to become more agitated, more prone to meltdowns, less likely to eat, less likely to sleep and more.
Missing out on your routine one day might not have much of an effect on the next day but over time, you will likely find yourself asking yourself why your child is misbehaving so much despite your best efforts to give them fun stuff to do.
So what can you do?
Well, there are a few things that can help with this.
- Camp – Many children go off to summer camp for at least a part of the summer. Camp is a great place for routines as well as keeping your little ones occupied. Specialty camps are available almost everywhere for special needs children now too.
- New Routine – So you wake up later, stay out later and eat later… so make it a new routine. Just make sure that the times you set are the times you stick to. Also, keep in mind that school will be starting again before you know it so before it’s too late, you’ll have to start adjusting those new routines back a bit to meet back up with the old school routine again.
- Alarm clocks – Notice it’s plural? If you want to keep your bed time routine the same as well as the wake up routine… set 2 alarm clocks. One for the time you wish to wake up and one for the time you want the kids in bed. The one for waking up should almost never ring since your children will wake up at their regular times anyway but for those times when you do fireworks or camp fires.. your little ones might be up late. And it’ll be painful to wake them up rather than let them get the sleep they need but that regular wake up time makes for a regular bed time later that day.
- Strict planning – A big part of routines falling apart in the summer is that you’re rarely home. The beach, park, camp and other places seem to eat the time up faster than you can keep track. And you’ll seem like the downer of the group for keeping an eye on the clock (watch, cell phone) but getting the lunches right at lunch time, the dinners right at dinner time and so one are very important. You don’t have to be home to get things done at the right time.
- Sacrifices – Sometimes, sacrifices can be made. For example, my boys are still a bit young for fireworks. They do love fireworks, mind you, but it’s not a priority. For Canada Day, we spent the entire day at the beach, water park, playground and with friends. They were ready for bed long before it was dark enough for fireworks. Did they miss out? Maybe on the fireworks but on the day? Hardly. They loved every second of it. My wife and I were the ones who made the sacrifice. We’re the ones who missed out but you know what? It was worth it.
Depending on your child, routines have to be strict or relaxed or, if you’re one of the lucky ones, are not all that important at all.
If it is important to you and your child, if you’ve had a good routine for most of the year, you may want to consider it into the summer as well because as I said, things might start going south and you won’t even realize why until it’s too late.
A routine is much more difficult to fix than it is to maintain.