Huge thanks to Helen for this blog post. Helen is mum to two children with additional needs and is also a primary school teacher. Here she shows us how we can plan fun weeks and create a visual timetable for a holiday week at home.
“I was trying to support an Autism Mum through her dread of the summer holidays when I remembered what I did with my boys when they were younger. We had got into a pattern where summer holidays were just a nightmare for everyone concerned. My youngest would show his anxiety due to a lack of structure like he had at school and so as soon as he woke up on a holiday morning he would start behaviours that I didn’t want and that would escalate to meltdowns several times a day. One year, I decided that I would try to be organised ahead of the holidays. I’m a trained primary school teacher and when I worked I used themes for a term or half term at school. I wondered if it might work to help keep my boys interested and occupied through the summer holidays. Keeping kids entertained is tricky and can often be really expensive. At the time I was a single mum and didn’t have the funds to afford too many extra activities.
So I decided to base the themes on things that interested my boys. We had a different theme for each week usually based on DVDs or TV programmes that they enjoyed. Often we had activities such as jigsaws on these themes so I focused on what I already had at home when trying to plan the summer activities. Below is an example from one of our themed weeks. I tried to make sure that there is a trip out every day so that my boys weren’t cooped up every day with an opportunity to have a run around. So I’ll explain what the timetable is showing.
The theme this week is Avengers. The idea is that all the activities are to do with the Avengers. The junk modelling (Wednesday) is to make a Headquarters for the Avengers, and Monday morning biscuits are to be designed to be Avengers. My boys quite enjoy dressing up so I have had themed outings to the park (Monday afternoon and Thursday morning) and the picnic could be themed too – maybe incredible hulk grapes or Thor’s hammers sausage rolls! Tuesday is the day to go shopping, my boys always do better if they have a picture list to tick off the items to know when the shopping is coming to an end, and also a place to buy the ingredients to make the Avenger pizzas.
Some of the activities are weather dependent, but it would be possible to change days around or activities around to be appropriate for that day.
The second week has the theme of The Hungry Caterpillar book. The week starts and finishes with a walk to the library and includes making play dough (plenty of recipes and instructions on the internet) making fruit salad, going to a café for lunch and a backyard picnic.
The quality of the timetable is not the important thing. These images were simply taken from Google images, but hand-drawn pictures will work just as well. My intention is simply to inspire parents to find interesting ways of using what they already have at home, or cheap resources to inspire and entertain their autistic kids in the hope that meltdowns would be reduced and everyone can try to have a calm and enjoyable summer. The important thing is that the activities are planned ahead of time so that the child feels ‘safe’ because their holiday week is a bit more predictable. It also makes life a lot easier for the parent as trying to think of activities at a tense moment is really difficult and often expensive.”
Thanks so much Helen, we are feeling inspired to have a go at this for the school holidays!