You may be thinking how will this post help me? I am not raising a child with autism or special needs. But chances are you may have a family member parenting a special needs child or even a friend. So knowing these strategies will be helpful to you when hosting a family event at your house. For my special needs parents these tips can help for a day trip, family event or vacation. Spreading Autism Awareness is the key.
- Whether you are driving or flying be sure to have the essentials that your child will need on hand. If you are flying be sure to contact your airline and they will assist you as soon as you check in and help you move quickly through security. I recommend a change of clothes, favorite snacks, electronic device, headphones, charger, backup electronic device, and calming music. If your child is visual create a picture schedule of what to expect and create a social story explaining the steps of the trip. If your child is on a reward system. Have a small reward(stickers, new crayons, gum) halfway through the trip and another small reward when you arrive.
- When you have arrived at your destination search for a pre-designated “quiet zone”. My daughter Sydney has Australia as her safe zone. Having this quiet space will allow your child to feel safe and secure if he or she becomes overwhelmed with noise and crowds. I am searching for a pop up tent for Sydney to take with us when we visit family. That way she’s close by me and we are still all able to enjoy the event. Be sure to have a few calming toys that work best for your child in case of sensory overload. A vibrating pillow, weighted blankets,toys, bubbles, and noise canceling headphones.
- Keep in mind that you may have to bring your own food due to dietary restrictions or sensory issues with food. I suggest you offer new foods to your child but have a back up plan. Your host will understand and not take it personally.
- Involve your child in activities with others. Even if it is only for ten minutes. That ten minutes could be a valuable time for your child to learn the rules of a game, and communicate in his or her own way with others. Encourage that interaction and inclusion. Not only will your child benefit but so will the others in attendance.
- Beware of wandering and water. If you are near a pool or lake have a designated person help to keep an eye on your child or take turns to offer you a break. As a single mom, that responsibility falls only on me. So there are times that I miss out on things but my children’s safety is my first priority. Money well spent would be to hire a mother’s helper to attend for an extra set of hands. Keep in mind to ask a friend or family member to watch your child to give you a quick break. This helps others to learn more about your child. I am on vacation now and I borrowed a video baby monitor. This is allowing me to write on the deck and enjoy listening to the waves in the ocean and see what Sydney is doing inside. Genius right? Why didn’t I think of this sooner?
- If a meltdown occurs or you see a possible trigger for a meltdown coming. Remember to relax, breathe and make sure your child is safe. Talk as less as possible. If your child is having a meltdown, listening to you is not a possibility at that time. You can’t be concerned about who’s staring at you, whispering about you or feeling embarrassed. Your main concern is calming your child and getting the hell out of there!
- Keep your contact information or a “power card” as it often called with details about your child. Some children wear bracelets, have wash off tattoos, or cards that they carry. I take a picture of both of my children before we leave the house so I have an accurate account of what they are wearing. It is also great to share with your child pictures and information about emergency helpers that they may encounter. Now that Sydney is older and her communication has improved. I want to make a visit to the local fire department, and police station. Meeting the officers and workers and seeing their vehicles will make her comfortable. God forbid she will ever need them.
Just remember that your family deserves to have fun, to attend family functions and trips. It may look different to others but that is okay. Be at peace with it and make memories.
Some of the happiest moments come from our biggest challenges.