You finally made it through the school year.  Your child did pretty well despite all the obstacles. You even saw him meet some of his IEP goals. But now summer is looming, and you have no clue what to do with him. As you probably know well, kids with autism often find it difficult while some typical kids (though by no means all!) do well with unstructured time. Without a clear schedule and structure, actually many kids with autism become quite anxious. And just "hanging out" is rarely a great option for a child on the spectrum, while you may have a local pool, beach, or other summer recreational option. After all, how many camp programs offer “social skills” along with “horseback riding – ordinary summer camp looks pretty unlikely. You might in fact be pleasantly surprised to discover that quite a few typical camps offer support for special needs kids -- and there are quite a few really good special needs camps springing up around the country. However, is to be pro-active – this is the key to finding the right match for your child. The reality is that they may know of very few options -- and they may not want to take the time to help you dig for ideas and resources, although your school district is supposed to help guide you through the process.

How to find a summer autism program

Start early. These days, even parents of typical kids start early in their quest for the perfect summer camp at the perfect price. For parents of autistic kids, the start should begin even earlier. What it costs, and whether it's right for your child, the better equipped you'll be to make a smart choice the more you know about what's available. Find out what kind of ESY program is offered through your school district. ESY is a federally funded option for kids whose skills are likely to regress during extended breaks. He may be eligible for a free summer program in case he does qualify.  Some districts will supply a 1:1 aide so that your child can be included in a typical summer camp. Transportation is included.  Be aware, though, that not all ESY programs are particularly good. Many are located at schools, run for only a short period of time for just small portion of the day, and offer very limited experiences.  For better or for worse, depending upon your particular needs – it is also fairly common for ESY programs to lump kids from a variety of school year programs into a single summer program. Look into organizations like Easter Seals, Variety Club, and the YMCA. All have missions that focus on providing high quality programs to kids with all kinds of special needs. The Y, in particular, may be a good choice as it is often a very inclusive and supportive setting.  You may find that the Y is already well-suited to supporting your child in a summer program even in case you do not have any interest in creating a program.