My son just completed his first week of our “Get Motivated! Summer Challenge” program. We developed it together to help kids get involved in a wider variety of activities over the Summer.
He has been going through it to make sure we have the kinks worked out. The program consists of seven Summer activities that must be completed weekly. Categories include: cooking, learning, social, creative, caring, outside and moving (physical activity).
Every year I try to come up with ideas to keep him learning and doing new things over the Summer. At age 13, he is in that awkward “too old for children’s programs” and not old enough to drive or work stage. So, he has a lot of time on his hands and only one real interest: video games. We’ve been working on having him get unplugged more this year and that means he needs a lot of activities this Summer to keep him occupied (and from driving me crazy).
Since some tasks will be easier for him, I am requiring at least one activity be completed per category each week, so he is prompted to work on areas outside his comfort zone. To complete a task, he must do an activity in one of those categories to my satisfaction. For instance, he got a Get Creative point for making a Birthday card for his father, and a Get Moving point for 25 minutes of exercising with the Just Dance Wii game.
It is especially important to grow and develop his skills in areas where he struggles due to being on the Autism Spectrum. In particular, we are working on initiating social interaction, self-direction and task completion, organization and focus. Strengthening these areas during the Summer will help both for the return to school in the Fall, and toward his independence in the future.
By having him contribute to developing the challenge program, we ensure his interest and commitment. To customize the program for your child, simply print it out and fill in the reward values for your child.
What’s Your Child’s Currency?
Having the right incentives for your child is key to making this program work. Even within the same family, what motivates one kid will be meaningless to another. That’s definitely how it was for my sister and I! Rewards should also change as your child’s interests change.
Having made a number of reward charts over the years, I find my son sticks with them best if they include three components:
1. An immediate gratification for completing a task
2. A larger incentive that he has to work towards
3. A negative consequence for not following the program or completing tasks
In our case, each point buys him an hour of time to play video games, be on the computer or watch TV. The points also accumulate each week towards special rewards he may earn throughout the summer. He starts with getting an ice cream treat at 10 points, then works his way up to a day trip at 200 points. To keep him from skipping the activities that are more challenging for him, the consequence for not completing at least one of each category is to lose the points accrued for that week.
What Makes this Program Unique?
So far the program is working out very well. My son is excited about it, has been asking questions and coming up with creative strategies for fulfilling each activity. He also has basic household chores (we are now calling them responsibilities) and opportunities to earn extra money. These are listed out separately for him and have their own rewards and consequences.
What I think is unique about the Get Motivated! Summer Challenge is that it stretches the child beyond their usual activities and chores. It has a comprehensive approach covering a range of types of activities. Some activities will be simple to figure out what to do, but others more difficult. They may need your help with suggestions and guidelines.
My son has trouble figuring out what to do outside, so the first day I built a fort in the yard with him. Increasing his cooking skills is a fun activity for us to do together, and teaches him to be more independent. The highlight this week was a beautiful haiku poem he wrote for me as a Get Creative point.
I hope our program is helpful for other families and look forward to getting your feedback. This is also my first “Printable” so let me know if you are having any difficulty accessing the document.
Print the Get Motivated! Summer Challenge Chart and instruction sheet.
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