Do you know that feeling you get when leaving for a party or event? It could be a big wedding, a work function, or a small family gathering.
For me, there is usually a combination of excitement and worry in my mind. What should I expect? Say? Wear? I would guess that most people have had this experience once or twice.
For kids with autism and related developmental disabilities, this feeling can be constant and exaggerated – especially with new things.
Seventy percent of families with autism are socially isolated. One of the main reasons is anxiety over not knowing what to expect when out and about. But this doesn’t have to be the case!
Experiences and events are truly the spice of life, so to help you be more prepared for a great event – including assisting your kiddos with anxiety and any special needs—here are some tips to help things go smoothly:
- Research online. Before going to a destination, find pictures online, search on the website, Google images, or read Yelp reviews to get a visual sneak peek at what you can expect.
- Call the party host beforehand to get details. Ask for any schedule you can foreshadow with your child. If your child has a specific trigger – ask about it. If your child is sensitive to loud noises, ask if there are any balloon-popping games, loud music, etc. Then you can properly prepare and know what to bring.
- Talk to your child about what to expect. For example, explain that they may or may not have cake, and that is ok. Always leave room for flexibility.
Upon arrival, identify a quiet space to take a break. Share this location with the host so they are aware.
- Pack a treat or snack. If your child has a dietary restriction and the party is serving something that’s not available to them, they can enjoy their treat and not feel left out.
- Remember that knowledge is power. Speak to the venue, the teacher, or the host to let them know your child may be feeling overwhelmed and anxious because of x, y, or z. These details help the grown-ups around support your child and create a greater understanding and inclusive environment.
- If your child uses an assistive communication device – share the tool with the host. This provides great education for them and will help your kiddo feel more comfortable communicating at the party.
- Know that small steps are wins. If your kiddo has a hard time with groups, attending for even a short time is a win. Celebrate it! Then maybe next time they will stay longer.
Going out can be hard, but it is vital to our kid’s social well-being, family connectedness, and inclusion. Our whole community benefits when we are all included. I hope these tips can help your family. See you out there!