Here in the north eastern part of the country August is a time when many of us are racing to take advantage of these last weeks of summer fun with our families. Studies show that outdoor activity can have a variety of benefits for children, especially those who are on the autism spectrum. Playing outside can reduce sensitivity, increase cognitive skills, and help children on the spectrum learn to communicate with their family. Before you get outside and start having a good time, you’ll want to take the following steps to set up secure, accessible summer fun for your kids and family.
Get Fences and Doors Repaired
Having a fence in your yard allows your child to play outside without you having to worry about their safety. If you have a wooden or metal fence, winter weather can cause damage. Do a perimeter sweep to determine if there is any loose fencing, broken doors, or other defects in your fence. You don’t want your child to be able to get out near the street or wander away from home through a faulty door. Children also tend to climb and play near fences, so it’s important to keep random pieces from falling and causing serious injury.
Plan Some Sensory-Friendly Fun
Children with autism may not enjoy the same outdoor activities as other kids. Communication and sensory issues can make standard backyard games a little overwhelming. To help them enjoy their time outside, try putting together some activities that won’t stress them out. Get a couple of tubs and let them play with some rainbow-colored soap foam or make boats out of pool noodles. Creating special activities for your children with autism can help them enjoy their backyard just as much as you do.
Protect Them From Pools
If you have a pool in your backyard, summer can be extra fun. Water can be a wonderful sensory experience for children on the spectrum, and pools are a good way to cool off from the summer heat. Just be sure to supervise your kids anytime they are in or around the pool. Use floaties or life vests for those who are not strong swimmers. To prevent serious accidents, think about installing a pool alarm that goes off whenever someone enters the water. While they can be a lot of fun, pools pose a risk for accidental drowning or other injuries. So make pool safety a part of your summer fun.
Stick With Non-Sticky Sun Protection
Summer means lots of sun. Unfortunately, too much sun exposure can lead to sunburn or even skin cancer. If your child doesn’t have issues with stickiness, sprays, or other textures, there are quite a few sunscreen options that will work to protect them. For children with sensory issues, try using a spray that will make application faster, or look to clothing and hats to keep their skin safe from summer rays. You can find soft, sunproof options that will help them keep their cool and offer sun protection.
Be Sure They Take Water and Snack Breaks
Children on the spectrum tend to get distracted. They can get so focused on fun or engaging activities that they forget to take breaks. But rising temperatures mean they’re burning more calories and can become dehydrated when they’re outside. Bring some refreshments outside to make breaks accessible and easy. Prep some tasty, healthy snacks each week and have them ready to fuel all that outdoor fun. Think of ways to make snack time fun for your children, to encourage them to focus on filling up. If your family plans on being outside for long or really running around, you may need to replenish some electrolytes as well.
Preparing your backyard for summer family fun doesn’t have to be difficult. If you have a child who is on the autism spectrum, take extra care to ensure your activities are safe, sensitive to sensory issues, and stress free for the entire family. Keep everyone healthy and hydrated and don’t forget to have fun!
Danny is a dad living in Philadelphia. He enjoys DIY projects almost as much as raising his two children. He is the co-creator of FixItDads.com, which offers tips for home improvement projects.
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