For some of you, outings may have always been challenging but adding a pandemic to the mix may have made family outings more difficult for you and your child. Children with Autism can struggle with being in new and unfamiliar places which can make anything from errands to the post office to eating at a restaurant extremely overwhelming. However, outings are a pivotal experience for children with Autism so that they can generalize skills and get used to different environments and social engagements. Afterall, at some point they will be adults and we want them to be as successful as possible.
Here are some tips to help prepare you and your family for upcoming outings to make them more enjoyable for all.
- Make a social story
- Social stories are great for children of all ages because they can describe an event and provide context. Including pictures and giving detail to the outing can make the child more comfortable with the outing before you go.
- Prepare your car with items that may make the outing more successful
- Some children may need items to get them through a car ride or store experience. Bringing along a familiar toy can help with waiting in lines, at restaurants or in the car.
- Prepare yourself with any items your child may need to communicate with. Your child may need to bring their PECS book, AAC device or any items that help them to communicate properly in their daily life.
- Practice loading the car and driving to the location in advance. Sometimes it may take several practice attempts and slowly integrate your child into the experience. For instance, your child may feel too overwhelmed with starting out the first time going to a restaurant by diving into all of the steps it takes before you sit down to eat. It may be helpful to break up the trip and practice a week or two in advance so that your child becomes more familiar with the drive, walking to and from the restaurant, meeting the staff, sitting at a table, and picking a food to eat.
- If possible, take supportive family members or friends with you.
- This can ease your stress level, have someone to help you prepare ahead of time and help you if things become overwhelming or difficult during the outing. Having a person to communicate your child’s needs to others while you are helping your child can be super beneficial during an outing if necessary.
- Notify the employees at the outing ahead of time of your child’s needs.
- A lot of places can accommodate noise, lights, and the amount of people in attendance if your child needs those types of accommodations. They can also be prepared for any preparations you may have in advance and make sure your child feels comfortable with them as well.
In the end, practice makes perfect. The more outings you are able to take your child on, the better that you both will feel and the more comfortable you will be in the long run.