Ahhh summer. A slower pace from our regular day-to-day lives. This year’s summer is likely to have an even slower pace as a result of COVID-19 and ongoing restrictions. Families that have neurotypical children will be significantly affected. Families that have children on the autism spectrum or with other diverse abilities…it’s going to be a hot, long one!
It feels like we started summer right after spring break (if only Mother Nature got that memo and brought the warm weather). Despite families homeschooling their children to the best of their abilities, there has been a tremendous upset in routine. Many families that have autistic children or children with other diverse abilities consider their kids going to school a form of respite. Families have had no choice but to be together for the last few months.
It will be an extraordinary summer. A lot of the things that we look forward to as summertime traditions won’t be happening. The PNE (Pacific National Exhibition) and the IPE in the Interior (Interior Provincial Exhibition) have been cancelled due to COVID-19. We now know that provincial camping will be allowed, but overnight summer camps for youth and teens are not going to be possible. What will community Canada Day celebrations look like this year? Definitely, everything will be on a smaller scale. Many of the summer day camps that children look forward to (almost as much as their parents who get a much-needed break) is not happening or will look a lot different this year.
So here is what we can’t do.
Festivals and Events are not going to happen this year; some events may happen but on a much smaller scale. Overnight summer camps for children and teens are cancelled.
But here is what we can do!
Go camping with our family and friend bubble.
Camping might look different than it has in the past. If you have your own RV then you may not notice as many changes. If you are a family that tents or has a trailer without a washroom then expect the communal washrooms to have different safety protocols this year. In the past, campgrounds usually would close their washrooms on a scheduled basis for cleaning, expect more of that this year and you may have to wait longer to get that shower.
Go to a drive-in theatre.
Just be sure to buy your tickets in advance as they have a 50 vehicle limit (at the time this article was written). Depending on the theatre, the concession may or may not be open, so do your homework (even though school is out).
Check out these Summer Safety Tips and Resources:
Water Safety for Children on the Autism Spectrum: 8 Tips
Wandering Prevention Resource by Autism Speaks
Go on a road trip.
Just make sure to have all technology fully charged and back-up chargers packed!
Go for a hike.
Or if you have that child that doesn’t want to leave the house, maybe settle for a short walk around the neighbourhood. I know a lot of families whose autistic children have enjoyed not having to leave the house due to COVID-19. I would suggest taking baby steps to get them out of the house.
I’m amazed at how many different hiking trails I’ve found in my own community over the last 3 months. You don’t have to go far to do some exploring. Start small and work your way up to more challenging hikes. Also, always remember to tell someone where you are going and be prepared for an emergency.
Some helpful hints:
1) Put the hike on the calendar.
2) Show your child a map or visual of the hike if you think this may help.
Families that like picnic in the park may also add activities like playing balls, riding bikes or going for a hike before or after your picnic. Bear in mind it may take a lot longer to use the washroom and make sure the one close to the picnic site is open. If possible, plan a day and time with social distancing rule in mind. Prepare your kids ahead of time, perhaps go for a short picnic with simple finger food to start with and gradual increase time and activities.
Check out these Summer Hiking and Travelling Resources:
Hiking with Autism: One Parent’s Journey
5 Travel Tips for Families of Children With Special Needs
Playing Outdoors: Building Skills, Exploring and Creating Memories for Autistic Children
For more information on protective measures that will be required of daycares and summer camps, please refer to the BC COVID-19 Go-Forward Management Strategy and the BC COVID-19 Go-Forward Management Checklist.
Home activities for children
Summer events and camps in B.C.
Sensory Regulation Summer Tips
To quote Dr. Bonnie Henry,
“This isn’t forever, this is just for now.”
Try your best to enjoy this extraordinary summer with your family and friends in a safe way.
Written by Lisa Watson, Regional Coordinator for Interior BC.