|Thanks to Heidi Chen for this photo.|
Many parents love the unstructured nature of summer, but I doubt they have kids on the autism spectrum. Without a framework, three months of warm weather can feel longer than the coldest winter. But put in too much structure, and it doesn’t “feel” like summer. As always, the challenge is trying to find a balance.
Right now we seem to have hit the sweet spot of summer - the weather is cooperating, and our routine has been reestablished. With long weekends spent at the cabin, the weekdays in between give William a solid framework to his summer, thanks to our nanny, Colleen.
Colleen was William’s para in first grade, and helps us after school and in the summer. They have their own daily schedule consisting of schoolwork in the morning and then a fun activity. She uses Saxon math and our own reading materials, and figures out just how to incorporate his interests (tall buildings! dog birthdays!) into their lessons. One summer they did story problems based on video game characters outdoors with sidewalk chalk. She’s also up for anything William might suggest - Edina pool, playdate, movie, Twins game, bowling, State Fair, Mall of America, and often texts cute photos to keep me posted on their fun.
She’s great at helping William with coping skills without pushing him to the point of distress. Since he learned about constants and variables last year in school, she's found a new framework for flexibility. For example, a “constant” at the baseball game is getting ice cream, while a “variable” is which kind to get. (Because you can’t ask a kid to NOT have ice cream!)
Colleen has also taught things to our whole family, including the irrefutable fact that quesadillas made on the stove are far superior than in the microwave. And, in all seriousness, I realize how very blessed we are to be able to have help with William. I wish every family with a child with ASD could have someone like her.