In order to get the best use out of the tips in articles two and three of this series they should be implemented in a structured, and well-planned manner. The best way for people with autism to deal with their problems is to have a good plan, and to stick to it. This means forward planning, and preparation. Summer is going to come around every year, and therefore all of the issues that come with it are also going to be an annual occurrence. This means it really is never too soon to start planning and preparing ways to deal with these issues. Below are a series of tips designed to help with that preparation.
- Talk about summer – this can be started at any time. Even at the beginning of the year. Instead of just letting the year progress and encountering changes when they occur, it might be worth having a good talk about what exactly a year consists of and when the changes will occur. It may sound a bit basic, but even a change such as week day to weekends can be difficult and stressful. It is not a case of the person with autism not knowing the change is coming, but there is a difference between knowing something is coming, and having a good in depth talk and discussion about it – if this is appropriate – and how it will affect the person and the world around them.
- Visual aids – much of the time autistic people find things easier to lean and grasp when there are visual aids. Different people learn in different ways anyway, but it is quite common for autistic people to be visual learners.
(1) Calendars – often calendars can be put up and then forgotten about for the majority of the year, but instead of leaving them to gather dust it is worth using them to prepare for transitions. It might be that the months of each season are marked off in a different colour. This makes it even more obvious for anybody looking where the transitions are going to come. It might even be worth putting on when the preparations for the transitions are going to start. It might sound like a lot, preparing for transition, and then the transition, but if the preparation goes as it should the transition will pass more smoothly.
(2) Collages – it might be helpful to make a collage to represent the summer. This can be done in anyway. It doesn’t have to be a collage, it could be a painting or simply a drawing. Typically it might use colours associated with summer such as oranges and yellows. It can be a fun and engaging way of beginning to think about summer, and perhaps a good way of introducing a conversation about the transition. It might also make children excited about summer, and therefore make them more willing to prepare for it. Even though this might sound like a childlike activity, it is something autistic adult can also do. Painting in itself is not childlike, and it can be relaxing and stress reducing.
(3) Scripts, Signs and Sketches – these are all good visual aids when it comes to preparing and planning for transitions. They can be used separately or in conjunction with each other, and the other tips listed here. They provide an opportunity for the child to write and draw about summer, and are also much more visually engaging than simply talking about an issue. But they do not only have to be used for children – they can be modified for use with adults as well. If you are unsure of the concepts of *Scripts, Signs and Sketches, and their practical use, then take a look at the links at the bottom of this article.
Hopefully the use of these tips will make the transition to summer much smoother, and less stressful for everybody involved. It won’t be perfect, and transitions will probably always remain difficult at least to some degree for autistic people. But as with anything, good, thorough planning, and a dedication to routine can play a massive part in the effectiveness of the techniques.
*Scripts, Signs and Sketches are a series of techniques that my Mum created to help me to deal with change and transition, meltdowns, and to be honest, most of the challenges that being autistic brings. They worked so well for me that we had them published in two books.