Oftentimes, children with autism spectrum disorder experience sensory overload when they are involved in activities outside the home. So much so that many parents (including myself) report that they have greatly reduced the time they spend in social settings.
However, being part of life outside the home is important for everyone. Instead of avoiding public outings, having a plan of action may be the key to having a successful experience in public settings.
1. Arrange for another adult or older child to come along for support.
2. Keep outings as brief as possible, gradually increasing the time based on your child's ability to maintain his/her composure for longer periods.
3. Have an escape plan in case things become intense.
4. If things do become intense, disregard any stares or rude comments from onlookers. Your first and only concern at this time is your child.
5. Remain as calm as possible. Find a quiet place (if leaving right away is impossible) where your child can calm down.
6. Depending on your child's level of understanding, it may even be a good idea for you to communicate your plans for the outing. You can use visual cards, a written schedule or a short social story to communicate what will take place during the outing and how he/she should behind.
7. Have a reward or treat for a job well done. This will increase the likelihood that your child will respond positively whenever you are in public settings if the reward or treat is something he/she really wants.
8. Don't give up if things don't work out well the first couple of times. The more you expose your child to social or public settings, the more acclimated he/she will become to those types of settings.