What To Consider When Taking Your Child On Outings
“Picture this scenario: you just had a sweet moment with your child on the Autism Spectrum, giving them tickles and kisses. Your child is laughing and coming back for more. You are so happy to have the connection. You suddenly realize what time it is and must go to the store to pick up some items for tonight’s dinner. You swiftly pick up your child, pull them through their coats, and push them into their shoes. You notice yourself tensing up as you enter the grocery store, and your child starts to whine. You strap your child in the cart and quickly pass the sugar-covered cereals. Your child screams as they reach for a box of something you definitely do not want them to have. Your child’s screams become louder. It seems like everyone is looking at you with judgmental eyes. Then, your child bites their hand and reaches up to pull your hair. You quickly pick your child up and go back to the car. It is almost hard to believe that this is the same child that was laughing with you and giving you kisses an hour ago in the living room.
“We are all well intended when we take our children to the grocery store, the park, the family reunion, the shopping mall, etc. We can do this without realizing its impact on our children. These places have a lot of unpredictability that our children are more sensitive to than we are: strobing fluorescent lights, sounds from cars, the temperature changes from outside to inside, the feeling of surprise when caregivers are trying to guide them physically, the unpredictable actions and judgments of strangers in these places, etc.
“In The Son-Rise Program®, we strive to create the most predictable and stress-free environment with the most accepting people. We want our children on the Autism Spectrum to have more opportunities to see people as user-friendly, FUN, and accepting. When our children spend more time in a non-distracting environment with people accepting them and being playful, it is easier for them to interact with others. This gives our children more opportunities to play versus needing to focus more energy on adjusting their nervous system to a state of relaxation. Even though you and I do not perceive any real danger at these places, your Autistic child’s brain sometimes sends the incorrect signal. The system goes to the sympathetic mode called fight or flight. In this scenario, the child biting and hair-pulling is most likely in a sympathetic brain state.
“Here are some things to consider and actions to take when you think about the places you go.
“Is it worth it, checklist:
✓ Are the people in this setting accepting of my child’s unique behaviors?
✓ Do I or any other caregiver get into major control battles when leaving or going on an outing?
✓Does my child run away from others or me in these settings, where it could be hazardous?
✓Although my child looks very happy running in circles at the playground, is anyone genuinely playing with them?
“Try this instead:
✭ Have your child in The Son-Rise Program® playroom with you or another person instead of going on an outing.
✭ Allow your child to ism/stim (engage in repetitious, soothing behaviors) fully around the house if they cannot be in their Son-Rise Program playroom.
✭ Order your groceries online or ask a friend, family member, or someone from your community to support you by doing your shopping once a week.
✭ When you have decided to take your child out, explain to them where and why you are going. If you need to help your child dress, let them know and position them where they can see you coming towards them. The less we surprise our children, the more relaxed they can be with the transition. For example, you can tell your child, “Mommy is going to help you put your coat on. We are going to drive to grandma’s house. We will eat lunch, play with grandma, and then come home.”
✭ Review The Son-Rise Program Social Developmental Model to see what skills your child has to know if they are ready to go on outings.”
Written by Suzanne Pruss, Son-Rise Program Teacher