Summer Traditions

Sometimes we get so bogged down in dealing with special diets, meds, therapy, behavior management, and other issues related to the special needs of our friends with autism that we forget to make room for good old-fashioned fun. Some parents were brainstorming about summer traditions, and came up with these quick, easy, inexpensive ideas to help make the most of these waning days of summer.

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WATERMELON. Although nearly all their kids have food allergies to some degree, these parents realized that none of their kids were allergic to watermelon. They suggested letting the youngster thump the melons and pick out a melon from a patch or from the grocery store. Chill it in the frig overnight or put it in a cooler covered with a bag of ice. Spread some newspaper ground outside for an adult to slice the melon, then let everyone enjoy the chilly treat. And don’t forget to have a seed-spitting contest!

FLASHLIGHTS. One time we had a summer evening get-together with a bunch of school-aged youngsters with autism. Most were non-verbal and were generally inattentive. All had some significant behavior issues. But every single person was intrigued when we gave them small flashlights. Some waved their lights wildly to make patterns and others shone their lights intently on one object. Several noticed the light changed when it flashed through a water bottle. Some were fascinated with the on-off switch and others enjoyed hiding the light under their t-shirt only to see it shine through. Several parents reported that the flashlights were popular at home for months after our summer gathering.

Other ideas for fun summer traditions included playing in the water sprinkler, making hand-cranked ice cream, playing kickball, setting up a popup tent in the backyard, and taking a picnic to the park. We hope you’ll send your ideas for inexpensive, stress-free summer fun. Just click on the comments button or send an e-mail to

NOTE TO READERS AND LISTENERS: I am Cathy Knoll, a board certified music therapist and long-time friend of many folks with autism. At we are committed to providing free, practical, everyday tips for making life better for people with autism. Feel free to send me an email with your thoughts or challenging situations or innovative solution. Send email to And don’t forget to check out our website for a wealth of ideas and a glimpse into the world of autism.

Published on: Jul 23, 2008

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