The Autism Mom Coach with Lisa Candera | Making the Most of the Summer

I love the summer, but it’s a time I haven’t looked forward to since Ben was diagnosed. Maybe you can relate. The reality is that making the most of the summer looks vastly different for Autism parents versus parents of neurotypical children, but it doesn’t mean you can’t relax and enjoy this time too.

If you often brace yourself for the summer or experience a lot of stress and anxiety during this time, you’re not alone. From logistical issues of where your child is going to be while you’re working to fears of academic regression over the summer, there are a variety of factors that make summertime a challenging period, both for you and your child. That’s why, this week, I’m showing you how to stop fear and anxiety from running your summer.

Listen in this week to learn my top tips for planning a summer that brings both you and your child joy. I’m sharing how fear and guilt might be showing up in your parenting, how to actually relax and enjoy your summer, and the best thing you can do for yourself and your child to make the most of the summer. 



Summers are stressful. Disrupted routines and a lack of support have a profound impact on our child with Autism, and we’re left with so many balls in the air. But if you want to set you and your child up for success this summer, click here to join my limited six-week program. 


If you are ready to take control of your Autism parenting experience, my Resilient Autism Mom Program (RAMP) is for you. In my 1:1 coaching program, I teach you the tools and strategies you need to conquer the Autism Mom Big 3 (stress, anxiety and burnout). To learn more about my program, schedule your complimentary consultation now.



What You’ll Learn from this Episode:

  • How the summertime is different for Autism parents compared to parents of neurotypical children.
  • Why I haven’t looked forward to summer since Ben was diagnosed.
  • How the fear and guilt that I wasn’t making the most of the summer showed up in my parenting.
  • What happens when you’re anxious about your child regressing over the summer.
  • The power of picking small and achievable goals.
  • How our focus over the summer has changed since Ben has gotten older.
  • The best thing you can do for yourself and your child to make the most of the summer.


Listen to the Full Episode:



Featured on the Show:

  • If you’re ready to apply the principles you’re learning in these episodes, it’s time to schedule a consultation call with me. Real change comes from application and implementation, and this is exactly what we do in my one-on-one program. To schedule your consultation, click here!
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  • Click here to tell me what you want to hear on the podcast and how I can support you.
  • Lakeshore Learning


Full Episode Transcript:

You are listening to episode 117 of The Autism Mom Coach, Making the Most of the Summer.

Welcome to The Autism Mom Coach podcast. I am your host, Lisa Candera. I am a lawyer, a life coach, and most importantly, I am the full-time single mother of a teenager with Autism. In this podcast, I am going to share with you the tools and strategies you need so you can fight like hell for your child without burning out. Let’s get to it.

Hello, everyone and welcome to the podcast. I am so glad you are here and I hope you are doing well. This episode is dropping the Wednesday after Memorial Day weekend, which means summer is in sight. I love summer, I love the heat, I love everything about it. And I think if you wanted to quickly explain to somebody what the difference is between being an Autism parent and a parent of neurotypical children, summer would be a great example because most people look forward to the summer.

I love the summer, but I don’t look forward to it or I haven’t since Ben was diagnosed. Because the term, making the most of summer, I think that means very different things to parents of children with Autism and parents of neurotypical kids. As I was having coffee with a few of my friends, all of whom have neurotypical kids, they were talking about things like which camp their kids were going to go to, which sports camps they would go to, vacations, trips, all that kind of a thing. I was so struck by this for two reasons.

First, my planning for the summer for my son begins in February. And two, when I think of making the most of the summer, I’m not thinking of all the fun things that you do like going on trips or vacations or camps. I’m thinking about how I am going to use that time to catch my son up in some way.

In fact, right after he was diagnosed at the age of two, before the summer would start, I would spend hours in Lakeshore Learning, which if you have never heard of it. It’s a teacher store where they have all kinds of workbooks and flashcards and all that type of thing for kids, I would say primarily under the age of 10 or 12. I would go there for hours picking out activities.

I’d spend hours laminating flashcards and other things for my son. All in the hopes that during the summer months I can make the most out of that time to catch him up on his reading skills, to do math drills, to do more types of therapy. My idea of the summer was an opportunity to load him up so that when he walked into the next school year, he would be on par with the neurotypical kids or at least closer than he was. And I will tell you, neither of these things made me look forward to summer.

So, first of all, with the camps, there were two camps that my son could possibly go to. He couldn’t just go to the regular YMCA camp, there was no way. He would get lost so quickly, and that I really needed to find programs that could give him one-on-one or additional support because I knew he would need it in order to be successful. And I was really lucky because I actually did have options.

There was a JCC camp about an hour away that had a program called Open Hearts Open Doors and they gave one-on-one aids to special needs kids, but the spaces were really limited, so I had to apply early. And the same thing with the Kinney Center for Autism because it was a camp that was created on St. Jo’s campus because St. Jo’s in Philadelphia has the Kinney Center. And the Kinney Center are run by students of the program and other paraprofessionals that are experts in Autism.

And so, this was also a fantastic camp for my son to get into, but the space was limited and there was a huge demand. So, every year I applied early and I crossed my fingers and I would get into one or other of the camps. And whichever camp Ben got into, I had to make it work. It didn’t matter that one camp was an hour in one direction and the other camp was an hour in the other. I had to figure it out and I did.

And so, I would either be getting him on the bus for one camp at 8:00am and then racing home from work to make sure I could get him off the bus at 4:00pm. Or I would be driving him 45 minutes from where I worked to drop him off at camp, drive back to work. And then I hired somebody who worked at the camp to drive Ben to my job in Center City, Philadelphia, where Ben would hang out with me for two or three hours while I still worked before going home. It was exhausting, but that was the way it is.

And so, I had to create my entire schedule around these camps and their schedules. But I was never guaranteed that Ben would get in, and even so, I was always afraid that one behavior would get him kicked out because these camps had long days and the kids are doing a lot. And when Ben gets overloaded, there is a chance that someone’s going to get hit or pinched or kicked. And I was always so afraid because if he got kicked out of one of those camps, my summer options were blown. So, there was that piece of the summer that just caused me a lot of stress.

And the other was my fear that my son would regress over the summer. That all of the gains he had made in his reading and his writing and his communication would just go out the door. So, I made it my job to make sure that didn’t happen. And so that’s where all of the drills and the flashcards and all the workbooks, that’s where all of that came in. And soon after summer began, I started introducing those to my son, and he actually did pretty well with it when he was three or four years old. But as he got older, he really started resisting.

And I think his day at school had gotten a lot harder for him, there was a lot more anxiety and he really did need that downtime. And he was saying that his peers weren’t doing homework over the summer. So, it really wrangled him that he would be doing homework over the summer and so it became more difficult. As that happened, my anxiety was through the roof because I looked at this time as my responsibility to fill it up, to make sure that he progressed or at least didn’t regress.

And so, when he resisted doing the activities, I lost my cool with him so many times, to the point where we would do an activity for a couple of days and then there would be so much stress that was caused by it that we wouldn’t do it for the rest of the summer. So, all of these grand plans, all of these beautiful workbooks and flashcards got pushed to the side. And I would spend the rest of the summer with just this horrible feeling in my stomach that I was failing my son.

Even if he was having a great time, even if he was doing well in camp, I still lived with the fear and the guilt that I wasn’t making the most of the summer for him. And it really showed up in my parenting. I didn’t enjoy the things we did as much as I could have because I was always thinking that we should be doing something different. Every time I saw him on the iPad, I would freak out and want to take it away from him and make him do something else or make him play on an app that was more educational.

So, there was always this push-pull between the two of us, of him wanting to do his own thing and chill out and have fun and play games and me wanting to turn my living room into a classroom. I’m sharing this with all of you, because at this time of the year, this is a big issue that I coach my clients on.

A lot of clients have fears of regression over the summer and they also feel the pressure to keep their child engaged academically all summer so that they can either catch up or they can be on par for the next school year. Now, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having academics be part of the summer, in fact, I think it’s great. But I want you to check the thoughts and the emotions that you’re having around it.

If your thought is, it’s not enough or I need to catch him up or my child might regress, that’s probably going to create anxiety for you. And if that’s creating anxiety, one of two things will happen. You will either be really dysregulated and really irritable as you try to get your child to do the thing, or you’ll do nothing. You will run and hide from it. You will avoid it, all while feeling terrible about yourself. That’s what I did.

So, I was never showing up to my son as laidback and chill and hey, let’s do a couple of sight words or do a Star Wars workbook math problem. It was much more, we have to do this. We have to do it now. We have to do it for a certain amount of time. He needs to get a certain percentage of these right before we move on. That energy was terrible because my son picked up on it and it really dysregulated him. And so, then we’re in this vicious cycle of dysregulating one another all because of my fear that my son would enter the next school year so far behind, or that he would regress.

So, if this is you, here’s the advice that I have and here’s what has worked for me. You need to go into the summer picking very realistic goals for your child, make them less than what you think they should be. For instance, if you ideally want them to read three chapter books over the summer, make the goal two and if you get to three, that’s fantastic. If you want your child to practice sight words each week, maybe do the same two each day for a few days and then move on to two more.

So, the point here is to pick small and achievable goals so that your child gets a win and you get a win too. The most challenging part of doing this is managing your mind, because your brain’s going to jump up and say, “It’s not enough. I’m not doing enough. I need to do more. This isn’t even worth it.” Just notice when that’s happening because if those are the thoughts that you’re having, the result is you’re probably not going to do anything. This is where you get to see the compounding effect of doing a little bit, but doing it consistently.

So, for me and Ben, this looked different depending on his age. So, when he was younger and he was doing sight words, instead of quizzing him on 20 sight words a night, I would do one or two a day. And another thing that I did is that for all of his shows, I put on the closed captioning because he watched the same shows over and over.

So, by putting on the closed captioning, I thought that would be a way that he could link some of the words written to the words said. And sure enough, he was able to do that, not all the time, not consistently, but there were some words that he picked up a lot faster because he was seeing them on whatever show he was watching.

For things like workbooks, I would buy grade level workbooks at the beginning of the summer and they had Star Wars ones which were great. They really inspired my son. Instead of expecting him or wanting him to do the entire workbook, I picked out about five pages that I thought were the most important and that I really wanted him to do. The same thing with chapter books, I let him pick out really tiny books so he could have wins. I also let him do the Who Was books because he loved them. Those were an interest to him and those were also a chapter book.

Wherever I could be flexible and include something that was of interest to him, I would do it. I would even create little books and little stories about things that he liked or things that we joked about. It could be animals. It could be the Mario characters, stories about his friends. He really liked those. The point there was just to be engaging him with small things, but doing it consistently and doing it in a way that it didn’t feel like work for me or for him.

And now, as he’s older, he’s a teenager, my focus during the summer is really relaxation because first of all, he’s a teenager and teenagers sleep a lot. There’s a lot going on in their bodies. I know that Ben is so much more emotionally taxed now than he’s ever been. I know that I did not realize for years how much this kid was masking. And that masking worked to some extent in elementary school but it doesn’t anymore.

The difference between where he is emotionally and socially and where his peers are, it’s like a canyon. He really has to work hard to engage in activities and stay regulated. And so now the focus is more on teaching him the ways that he can stay safe, he can stay regulated and he can use his strategies.

And so, for you and planning your summer for your child, if you are bracing yourself for the summer, I want you to check in with the thoughts that you are thinking. Those thoughts are going to create stress and anxiety in your body and that’s going to make it a lot harder for you to strategize and troubleshoot and plan. I want to remind you, you have gotten through every summer of your life and your child’s life to this point, you will get through this but I don’t want you to just get through it.

I want you to be able to enjoy it and I want you to be able to relax. But to do that, you’re going to have to think differently about the summer. If you’re thinking about just getting through it or you’re focusing on all of your fears of regression, this is going to show up in how you parent. It’s going to show up in your energy and it’s going to impact your kiddo. The best thing that you can do for yourself, to make the most of summer for yourself and your kiddo is first to recognize the fear and the anxiety that might be coming up for you and validate yourself, know that it’s normal.

But we don’t want that fear and anxiety running you and running your summer. That’s where the decision to create small and achievable goals for you and your kiddo comes in. When you’re not putting tons of pressure on yourself and on your child for the summer to look a certain way you will get to enjoy the summer you are having versus the summer you think you should be having.

Now, of course, this is all really easy to say and implementation is a whole other ball game. That’s why I want you to know that if you’re enjoying my podcast then you will love my six week program, my six weeks to summer program so you can set your child up for success and you can set yourself up for success. This program will give you everything you need in a short amount of time to take control of your summer experience and make the most of the summer for you and your kiddo.

You will have support from me one-on-one for these six weeks, both during our coaching calls, group coaching calls and email. I will walk you step by step through managing your own anxiety and your own stress so that you can show up as the parent you want this summer, so that you can get out of your fear brain and create strategies and plans and implement them. And most of all, so you can actually enjoy your kid and enjoy your summer.

If this is something you are interested in, schedule a consultation call with me right now. You can go to my website and schedule your consultation there. I will teach you all of the skills that you need to feel confident and to feel capable and to be able to create your own calm this summer. Again, go to my website and I hope to talk to you soon. Aright, everyone, that is it for this week’s episode. I will talk to you next week.

Thanks for listening to The Autism Mom Coach. If you are ready to apply the principles you are learning in these episodes to your life, it is time to schedule a consultation call with me. Podcasts are great but the ahas are fleeting. Real change comes from application and implementation and this is exactly what we do in my one-on-one coaching program. To schedule your consultation, go to my website,, Work With Me and take the first step to taking better care of yourself so that you can show up as the parent you want to be for your child with Autism.

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