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Tips on Summer Planning with Neurodiverse Kids

Tips on Summer Planning with Neurodiverse Kids
Brightline Logo Mark Orange
Brightline team

Apr 8, 2024

Most people know what it feels like to have racing thoughts or too much on your mind. It makes it tough to focus and can feel overwhelming, right? Kids with neurodivergent brains can experience that a lot of the time — which can then lead to them feeling out of control and unable to settle into an activity. 

For many kids, having a daily framework in place helps. A set schedule gives kids a clear path to follow from task to task and keeps surprises at bay, which is helpful for those who have a tough time transitioning from one thing to another quickly.

So what happens when summer comes, bringing less structure and way more free time? Without the consistency kids get used to at school, even the simplest activities (including the ones they normally enjoy) can feel like a challenge.

Make routines a routine

Creating a structured environment — especially for kids who have a hard time entertaining themselves — can bring the whole family both peace and productivity. The routine you set depends on the age of your child, the kinds of things they enjoy (or don’t!), and what works for you as a parent or caregiver. A routine may not be a magic wand, but it can help you avoid the chaos that boredom can bring.

  • Find activities that can stand alone or stack up

    • Start by making a list of 15 or more things your child likes doing by themselves. Even short activities add up when they’re stacked throughout the day.

    • If your child is easily bored, or acts out when they don’t know what’s next, stack tasks up to keep them occupied most of the day. 

    • If they’re more independent, use a few activities as benchmarks between meals — it’s still a framework for them to grasp onto, just with a bit more freedom. 

  • Make it fun and sustainable

    • If your child is more flexible and enjoys variety, you can write activities on slips of paper and make an activity jar to hold them in. They can decorate it and choose a new random task or activity throughout the day. 

    • If surprises aren’t your child’s thing, you can still make it fun by creating a colorful daily chart on a dry erase board — this is especially helpful for older kids who can read and want to be a bit more independent. 

    • And if you’re multitasking throughout the day, too, consider using a timer so you don’t lose track of how long they’re on each activity. 

  • Keep your balance

    • Summer can bring lots of fun, last-minute plans, so try to stay flexible where you can and hold fast to the schedule where it truly works for your child. 

    • Keep an eye on the family calendar as well and try not to overschedule the day — wiggle room and time to rest is essential so you don’t feel that constant push/pull of rushing. 

Pro tip: Once the day is handled, remember to set up an age-appropriate bedtime routine, too. A consistent schedule at night —for little kids and big ones — can help your child unwind while signaling to their body that it’s time for sleep. 

Break the big tasks down into little ones

One of the superpowers of neurodivergent kids is their ability to really zone in. This hyperfocus usually comes into play when a child is doing something they enjoy, but it can be harnessed and used to get through challenging tasks, too. 

One way to give them the opportunity to use that focus in a positive way is by taking a big activity and turning it into a handful of small ones. Here’s an example of how you can help your child get into the zone. 

Let’s say one of the tasks on their activity list is to tidy up their room. For a child with a neurodiverse brain, “Please clean your room” might be too vague. That simple ask could lead to them wandering around their room — and away from their focus zone. 

They aren’t necessarily being defiant, they simply don’t know where to start. Set your child up for success by breaking the big cookie into crumbs. When you do, “Please clean your room” turns into:

  • “Please toss your dirty clothes into the hamper.”

  • “Now put your clean clothes away in your dresser.”

  • “Great! Okay, put your shoes in the closet.”

  • “Almost there! Please make your bed.”

  • “Last, bring the cup on your nightstand into the kitchen.”

Even if cleaning up isn’t their favorite thing to do, along the way to the big goal they’ll be piling up a bunch of small wins. Those little victories add up to them feeling successful, all while working independently on something you asked them to do. (An all-around feel-good win!)

With a little planning, your summer can go from stressful to smooth. Take advantage of the longer days and good weather by taking activities usually done indoors to the park, the yard, or the beach for a change of scenery. Create a simple, skill-building framework that you and your child can depend on. It will help build their self-confidence — and give you lots of reasons to praise them for a job well done, all summer long.

Need more ideas on how to prepare a summer plan that works for your family? Your Brightline team is h ere to help. Sign up today.