Sometimes fun social events can be very stressful for a child on the spectrum. Group gatherings such as assemblies, plays, places of worship, and sporting events are meant to be fun ways to spend quality time with family, friends, and peers, but when a child with autism has a difficult time functioning in a large group, it is time to figure out ways to help them enjoy they types of events.
Here are some helpful recommendations on how to make a group activity, r event more relaxing and enjoyable for your child with autism:
1. Let Them Know What to Expect: Before the event, provide your child on the spectrum explanations and visual tools of what to expect when they are in a large group setting. Depending on the activity additional expectations could include sing with the group, clap when other people clap, or raise hand to ask a question. You may also want to print out a list of these expectations and give them to your child during the event.
2. Videotape your child’s role playing: Role play different social events with your child and videotape them correctly demonstrating skills. Edit the video to show only correct behaviors and then play the video back to them. While they watch the video verbally point out appropriate behaviors.
3. Practice before an Event: It is always good to practice going to a specific event right before the even takes place. Go through each step from attending the event, proper behavior while at the event, when to cheer, when to listen, etc and what to do at the end of the event before leaving. This can be done at the actual venue or at home or school.
4. Be Realistic: Sometimes no matter how much you plan, some events will just not be appropriate for your child with autism. They may be too loud, slow paced, or too long, your child may not be interested in attending and give you a hard time, etc. When you, your family and your child’s friends throw events it is always important to set realistic goals, that way the event or activity is more pleasant for everyone.
6. Reinforce Good Behavior: Provide your child on the spectrum with positive reinforcement during the event for attending and following rules. Use what is truly motivating for your child to encourage them to continue to be on their best behavior and participate appropriately at the event.
Learning to follow rules and behave appropriately in large group settings such as assemblies, places of worship, or movies can be challenging for many children, but can be extremely challenging for a child that has been diagnosed with autism. Some events repeat frequently and provide frequent opportunities for practice while others may occur every few months or sometimes once a year. Regardless of how often an event or activity occurs, or how many large events your child on the spectrum attends, it is always important to remind them of the skills they have learned in the past and teach them new skills to help them participate, stay relaxed and have a good time, no matter where they are or where they go.