One of my young teen friends diagnosed with autism is extraordinarily obsessive about routines and quite resistant to change, making “lazy summer days” a real struggle for him and his family. Just before school was out two years ago, we developed a “Retro Summer” plan in music therapy, featuring fun times from the childhood of the parents in the 1950’s. Having a summer theme and plan for activities made a big impact on the attitude of this young man. Because he saw some purpose and organization to summer, he was much less agitated and much more content.
Here are some examples of his Retro Summer activities:
(1) Grandparents sent black and white photos of the parents as children – snapped on a Brownie camera and printed with the date on the side of the picture.
(2) The teen searched iTunes for classic songs from the 50’s. The family enjoyed singing along at home and while on road trips. He even learned to play along with a few favorites on his guitar.
(3) The whole family spent a bit of time every evening with activities the parents remembered from their childhood: blowing bubbles, making paper airplanes, playing with a hula hoop, playing in a sandbox, having water gun fights, playing hide and go seek, playing horseshoes, or eating watermelon and spitting the seeds.
(4) Throughout the summer, the family occasionally sat down to watch an episode of a television show popular in that era while munching on popcorn.
(5) The family also gathered around the table regularly to play games from the parents’ childhoods – Bingo, Go Fish, and checkers.
(6) The family had an on-going, informal “kick ball tournament” throughout the summer.