Going out with a child that has been diagnosed with autism can be overwhelming for the child and the parent. The child may not feel comfortable in their environment and that may cause them to panic or have a tantrum and their parents are constantly worried about what they will do if their child breaks down in public. Outings don’t have to be scary or cause stress. In fact with the right preparation, outings can be a lot of fun. Here are some tips on what you can do to decrease the level of anxiety in your child when planning an outing.
- Let them know what to expect – Setting expectations for your child is a great way to minimize stress and increase awareness of what is happening around them. Start off by letting your child know where you are going and give them visuals so they can better understand what to expect to see when they get there. Take pictures of the places you visit frequently like the park, your favorite restaurant, the mall, your family and friend’s homes etc. Providing this type of support will allow your child to manage outings more successfully.
- Involve your child in planning the day – Often parents drag their children with them on errand after errand without allowing them to participate in activities their kids find entertaining. Start your day by letting your child know what you need to do, but don’t forget to allow them to pick a few activities they want to do as well. This way you can get your errands done and your children will be happy because they can (A) be part of the planning process and (B) participate in some fun activities that they enjoy.
- What happens if things don’t go as planned – It is important to understand that at times things won’t go exactly as planned. Sometimes your plans will change, other times you will experience delays…It is also important to let your child know if there are changes made to your plans and to help them understand that delays and changes tend to happen. It is always good to have a back-up activity that your child will enjoy in case something like this occurs during your day out.
- Ask for assistance/Bring an activity with you– Your child is less likely to break the rules if they are busy. When you are shopping, have them help you pick things out (such as groceries, gifts, clothes etc.)If you are looking for something specific, let them know what it is and have them help you find it. Bring reinforcers, games and toys that they enjoy playing with along with you so that you can distract them or keep them occupied if they start to get fussy. Keeping them occupied and keeping them focused on something decreases boredom and allows for a parent to have additional tome to complete an errand.
- GREAT JOB is something all children like to hear – Don’t forget to praise your child for their good behavior. Telling your child they are doing a great job listening, following directions, being kind to others etc. shows them that their good behavior gets rewarded.
Whatever it is that you decide to do with your children, make sure they know what to expect and that they understand that sometimes things change. Involve them in your activities and reward them for good behavior. Most of all learn to be consistent with them so they know that you mean what you say and do what you say. Teaching your child to trust your word is important to a successful day out with your child.