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Navigating Summer: Coping with Changes in Routine for Individuals on the Autism Spectrum

Summer is often seen as a time for relaxation, vacations, and a break from the usual routine. But for individuals on the autism spectrum, this change in routine can be a source of stress and anxiety. Whether it's the end of the school year, changes in work schedules, or disruptions to daily routines, summer can pose unique challenges. In this blog, we'll explore some strategies to help individuals on the spectrum and their families navigate these changes with greater ease.


Understanding the Impact of Routine Changes

Routine provides predictability, comfort, and structure. For many people on the autism spectrum, deviations from routine can be overwhelming and disorienting. The shift from the school year to summer vacation often means:

  • Disruption in Daily Schedules: With school out, regular waking times, meals, and activities can be altered.

  • Changes in Social Interactions: Friends and classmates may be away on vacation, and social circles may shift.

  • Increased Sensory Stimulation: Summer often means more outdoor activities, which can bring new sounds, smells, and sights.

  • Transitions to New Settings: Camps, summer programs, or family trips can mean navigating new environments.

Strategies for Managing Change

Here are some practical tips to help individuals on the autism spectrum cope with changes in routine during the summer:

Create a Summer Schedule

Establishing a new routine for the summer can provide a sense of predictability. Use a visual schedule to outline daily activities, including meal times, play, relaxation, and sleep. If there are any special events or trips, include them on the schedule to help set expectations.

Communicate Changes Clearly

It's important to communicate any changes in routine clearly and in advance. Use simple language and visual aids, such as social stories or pictures, to explain what will happen and when. Providing this information ahead of time can reduce anxiety and help individuals prepare for new experiences.

Maintain Familiar Routines Where Possible

While summer brings change, try to maintain familiar routines in key areas. This might include keeping consistent bedtimes, mealtimes, and daily rituals. Consistency in these areas can provide a stable foundation even amid other changes.

Incorporate Sensory Breaks

With increased sensory stimulation during the summer, be sure to incorporate regular sensory breaks. This could involve a quiet space, calming activities, or sensory toys. These breaks can help manage sensory overload and provide a calming reset.

Plan for Transitions

Transitions to new settings can be challenging. Before going to a new place, consider visiting ahead of time or exploring it virtually. Create a "transition plan" with familiar items, such as a favorite toy or blanket, to provide comfort during the change.

Foster Social Connections

Summer can be an opportunity to build social skills and relationships. Consider organizing small playdates or outings with familiar friends. If social interactions are challenging, structured activities like board games or building projects can provide a comfortable way to connect.

Prioritize Self-Care

Parents and caregivers also experience stress during times of change. Be sure to prioritize your own self-care, whether it's taking breaks, practicing mindfulness, or seeking support from others. When you are well-supported, you are better equipped to support your loved ones on the spectrum.


Summer can be a time of excitement and exploration, but it can also bring challenges for individuals on the autism spectrum. By creating a structured routine, communicating clearly, and providing sensory support, you can help make the transition smoother. Remember, each individual on the spectrum is unique, so it's important to tailor these strategies to their specific needs and preferences. With the right support and planning, summer can be an enjoyable and enriching time for everyone.


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