How to create engaging opportunities in the school holidays

School holidays are the perfect time to create engaging opportunities for you and your child or the person you are supporting. With early intervention, school and other activities taking a break during this period gives you an opportunity to work on engaging experiences in the home.

Create Structure and Routine

Easily said than done, right! What we do know, is that children and people with Autism, Down Syndrome, language and learning developmental delays cope better with structure and routine.

There can be a lot of anxiety around school holidays and changes to a person’s routine.

For the person to be able to understand the change and what is going on in their world, we need to create structure and routine for their day/week. A visual schedule for the week and a schedule for that day is a concrete form of communication that allows the person to understand what they are doing now and what is coming next.

A Weekly Visual Schedule will allow the person to understand what they are doing that day and what they are doing for the rest of the week. Once the person understands what they are doing that day, you can break down the day into smaller activities, so the person can understand what they are doing now and what is coming next.

Weekly Visual Schedule is a printed schedule with the days of the week with picture cards attached of what they are doing each day of the week.

Daily Schedule is a printed sequence with picture cards of what activities they are doing that day.

Firstly, before attempting to create engagement, you need to do some planning first.

Creating engaging opportunities with everyday household tasks

If you look around your home, there are many engaging opportunities.

Look at all the different daily tasks that need to be done and break down those tasks into smaller steps. You may need to break the task with visual prompts.

School holidays activities disability autism

For example, Laundry.  Every household is different, this is how I would break down the task in my home:

  • Take the “dirty clothes” basket to the Laundry
  • Place dirty clothes in the washing machine
  • Pour the laundry liquid into the washing machine compartment
  • Press the correct settings
  • Press start

By breaking down the tasks, you have created 5 opportunities of engagement.

Making each step of the task fun and memorable is more important than how long the person you are supporting stays on the task.

Let’s use, placing the dirty clothes in the washing machine as an example.

Support the person to stand at the washing machine with their hands out, ready to catch, gently throw the dirty clothes item into the child/ person hands, encourage them to catch it. Once caught, using verbal or non-verbal gestures such as pointing prompt the child to place the dirty clothes into the washing machine.

Now is the time to praise, praise, praise, verbal praise, lots of high fives, big smiles etc.  Grab the next item of clothing and continue with the task.

Remember it is not about getting the task done, it is about sharing an engaging moment.  It may be that your child or the person you are supporting only engages in one step of the task and only engages for a few seconds/minutes, that is ok, it gives you something to build on.

I can think of hundreds of household tasks that could be broken down into smaller steps, can you?

We would love to hear about some of your engaging moments these school holidays.

Till next time

Alison – Mum, Blogger, Founder See-n-Speak Visual Communication Supports for children and people with a disability.



Alison Mooney

I am a mother first, Blogger and Founder of See-n-Speak Communication Picture Exchange resources for people with a Disability. Sharing our resources and knowledge successfully using picture exchange as a form of communication with our child.

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