I have been wanting to write this post for a few weeks, but as per usual, life has kept me crazy busy, so I have had to put it off.
Why the busy schedule you may ask? Well, with only two weeks left of this summer semester, final projects have been due, so of course that has kept my free time occupied… but also its my favorite time of year at work…SUMMER TIME! Summer time means more hours of work and play for the kiddos and it has been in full swing for a few weeks now.
Not only is summer time a chance to get my kids out and have a little extra fun, but it is also a great time to work intensely on some programs to prepare for the upcoming school year, and work on generalizing the skills that have been learned in the home setting to many other areas of the community.
One reason I love summer schedules is because we get to work a lot on morning routines! While it may seem weird to work on them during the summer, as the kids usually don’t have anywhere they need to be, like school, it is a great time to practice using the routines in preparation for the school year.
How do we work on morning routines? The answer is quite simple. Visual schedules! Essentially, each separate part of the child’s morning is broken down into smaller tasks and put on a schedule with a picture. For example, please see the picture below:
This may seem like an easy visual to follow and complete, and you would be right…it is!
Kiddos on the spectrum work really well with visuals, and this schedule is a nice reminder of what is supposed to be completed in the morning, usually before going to school, but also before starting the day.
The visual schedule allows my kids to complete a big task (getting ready for the day) by breaking it down into smaller tasks which makes it less daunting, but also allows them to complete many small goals at the start of the day. As a person who makes their bed every morning, and feels a sense of pride from completing that small goal every morning, I love to try and instill that same sense of accomplishing small goals, starting right as they wake up, into the kids I work with. When these small goals are accomplished in the morning, it will encourage more small goals to be met throughout the rest of the day!
Anther reason for seeing the joy of summer time schedules is that I have more of an opportunity to take my kiddos into the community to work on skills. Working on skills in the home with familiar people is a great way to learn a skill initially, but making sure that the child knows how to use that skill with unfamiliar people in an unfamiliar environment is just as important. This concept is known as generalization.
For example, when working on learning how to maintain appropriate boundaries, a child can learn the skill in the home and understand the concept with the technician and family, however, it may be more difficult to understand where appropriate boundaries are with people they have never met in a new setting. So, while a child may know how to ask a sibling to play Barbies, without getting all up in their personal space while playing, it can be difficult to learn how to ask a peer at the pool the same thing as they are a new person in a new place.
Or when working with a kiddo on eating new foods, having them be able to eat Chick-fal-a nuggets in their home may have a very different result then when being asked to eat the nuggets in the actual Chick-fal-a. There are many reasons for this. The home is a comfortable environment where the noises and expectations are something that can be anticipated, but the Chick-fal-a can have new sounds and is generally a new setting which can be overwhelming.
Being able to go to many different environments during the summer time to work on a variety of skills is the best! Seeing a child eat a new food for the first time in their home brings me so much joy, but seeing that they are able to eat the same food, is so much more rewarding, because it means that the concept we have been teaching really has stuck!
These are just a few things that make the summer time a blast! My job is so cool, and I love seeing the growth in my kids in small and big ways! So far, goals have already started to be accomplished this summer and it have been so rewarding. Goals that have been worked on and accomplished so far include, but are not limited to; a child eating ham for the first time, a child learning to greet their peers, a child riding a pony for the first time, a child learning that being told ‘no’ is not the worst thing in the world, and a child learning how to say important information such as their name and address. I cannot wait to see how far my kids come at the end of the summer!!
If any of this sounds fun, maybe you should consider being an RBT and future BCBA (in just 7 months for me, once I pass the exam). You too could be the reason that a child is learning to eat new foods, tie their shoes, or read a book!