The end of the school year can bring mixed feelings for parents. There are feelings of pride as parents reflect on the progress their child made during the school year. Anxious feelings can also creep in when parents start thinking about their child’s transition to summertime, which brings with it a change in routine and behavior.
Some children need to be prepared for changes in their daily schedule. You can help your child understand the upcoming changes that summer break brings by providing social stories, schedules and verbal scripts.
Social Stories: These special stories, created by Carol Gray, describe a situation from the child’s point of view and in the child’s own words. The stories can describe appropriate ways to behave, communicate, handle sensory needs, etc. It doesn’t need to be in a book format - one-page social stories are okay, too. Visual supports, in the form of photographs and cartoon graphics, are typically included. You can purchase professionally-made social stories or create your own on the spot by writing down a script and drawing pictures with your child. Refer to these downloadable summertime social stories, Summer Vacation and What to Expect on Summer Break, to use as is or as examples to help guide you through your own creation.
Schedules, Choice Boards and Calendars: Most adults refer to personal calendars and written to-do lists to organize their life. Similarly, picture schedules, choice boards and calendars serve as visual tools to help children understand the structure of their day. Incorporating the use of these visual tools (not to be confused with PECS) can help boost understanding, which often leads to a decrease in anxiety and undesirable behaviors.
Schedules can help children understand the activities they will participate in during a particular timeframe. You can make a schedule by writing down a list of activities or, even better, putting together a set of pictures representing the activities and displaying them vertically (or horizontally) in order of completion. Show your child the top (or left) picture and say “Time for ___.” When the activity is completed, help your child place the picture in an ‘all done’ envelope or container. Then, show your child the next picture card. If your child doesn’t recognize picture cards, read about how to make and use an object schedule.
Choice Boards can help a child choose an appropriate activityto participate in. You can help by placing a few appropriate pictures of activities in front of your child and let him/her pick what activity he/she would like to do.
Calendars can also be highly effective. Older children may start to rely on weekly or monthly calendars. The Choiceworks Calendar app (only $4.99) effectively incorporates the use of pictures to help children better anticipate and understand what they will be expected to do in a given day, week or month.
Scripts: This is one of the easiest ways to provide instant support for your child. What are scripts? Simply put, it’s modeling or saying what you want your child to say. You can use scripts to teach social skills or simply provide appropriate language for a particular situation. Help your child prepare for the transition into summer break by providing scripts about school ending (e.g. “I have 4 days of school left” and “I will have fun on summer break”). I also like using scripts to help a child remember appropriate ways to behave (e.g. “I share with my brother”).
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