The word summer produces two strong emotions in most households: elation for the kids; anxiety for the parents!  Don’t get me wrong – I love long, sunny days (especially in Southern California) and the promise of all those fun times we now have a little more time to squeeze into our busy lives.

But it also means “no school” for most families.  All the structure, discipline and 8 or so hours away from home that school provides suddenly disappears.  What is a school teacher’s job 9 months of the year – providing learning opportunities, life lessons, and structure in an enriching environment – is now suddenly MY job.  YIKES!  I did not sign up for that!

Of course, I did sign up for it the day I chose to be a parent.  So like all the other parents out there, I am ‘busy’ figuring out how to keep Jeff busy:  keep him entertained, happy, enriched, and perhaps most importantly of all, progressing.

Many parents face the summer months with trepidation. Because autism is a part of our lives, I know I have a fear of Jeff losing acquired skills during long periods of time without school.  I can sign him up for community programs offered to the general public, but try and include an aide or older friend to participate as well, to help Jeff when he needs a little special attention.  We always continue to work on academic skills during the summer; I just have to be sneaky about slipping them in without him catching on!

Summer is also a great time to check in and boost on your child’s dietary needs, especially for those of us who keep our kids diet GFCFSF.  Fresh fruits and veggies give us so many options to feed those growing bodies! And for those of us whose children’s health rely on special therapies, hyperbaric oxygen or detoxification efforts can be increased during summer months as well.

Of course, summer is NOT complete without play!!  All kids need to let loose and stay active.  For kids with autism, summer is also a great opportunity to boost up those social skills through play dates and structured programs.

What to do during the summer months:

Other ideas outside therapy time:

Summer is also a great time to reconnect with family.  Reach out to your family and ask for help keeping your child busy with friendly faces and fun activities. Jeff’s aunts, uncles, close friends, and his amazing sister Lauren get to hang out a bit more during the summer.  Jeff loves it and it gives my husband and I much needed breaks.  It is a perfect time to reconnect without homework, bed times, and tests.  Please remember to reach out and get that much needed help.

Speaking of summer, nothing kicks off an Ackerman summer better than TACA’s annual picnic. Can you tell I am excited? In just a few days, hundreds and hundreds of TACA families will gather together to hang out, catch up, share ideas and marvel at the progress our kids have made since the last TACA picnic. The kids have a great time reconnecting with one another (check out Jeff and his “posse” at last year’s picnic) and parents like me get a shot of energy and hope as I connect to “my people.” You know the ones, those that understand you and this journey best, and graciously share information on what is helping our kids. We all gather so much strength from each other.

I cannot wait to see all my Southern California friends (and those rock stars that travel from out of state to join us) at the 8th annual TACA Family picnic! My dream is that one day TACA picnics will spring up across the country (like recently in Georgia!) so everyone can jumpstart their summer the TACA way!

Meanwhile, hang in there during the summer months, and reach out if you need help or a friend that understands.  Like that Staples commercial – get ready to dance in the aisles when school starts up again! It will be here sooner than you think.

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