6 Tips for Surviving a Get-Together for Your Child with Autism & Sensory Needs
By Hallie Bulkin
That get-together is around the corner and your anxiety levels are on the rise. As you anticipate what this event might be like for you and your child, you consider just skipping it. After all, that does seem easier, doesn’t it?
If you want to attend that upcoming event but are unsure of how to actually enjoy yourself with your child in tow, you will want to keep reading.
You do not need to stay home and avoid a get-together just because your child usually gets overwhelmed and has a meltdown. Every year we work with families to help them enjoy their time with family and friends at various events throughout the year. From holiday parties to birthday’s and family reunions (to name a few), we use the same tips to prepare children. Using today’s tips you can experience success with your child and your next get-together outside of your home.
Here are 6 tips for surviving your next get-together with your awesome kiddo:
- Plan ahead with visuals(e.g., a visual schedule or picture cards that your child can sequence). Set up the experience by explaining the sequence of what will occur and what to expect from who they will see, what they will smell, what will be served to eat (whether they are expected to eat it or not), and what they can do when they feel overwhelmed.
- Feed your child before you head to your host’s home OR feed in a quiet setting before everyone sits down to eat together.This will make sure that they can operate at their best since they will be well-fed and not hungry on top of being anxious or overwhelmed.
- Bring along some snacks.Make sure you bring the snacks your child knows are “safe” and enjoys eating. This will give them something to nibble on if desired, when everyone else is eating the big meal they wont touch. Hint: this is NOT the time to work on feeding skills! Let that go for the night (or even the week if you must!)
- Keep It SIMPLE!Keep your language and all forms of communication with your child simple so they do not have to work to communicate with you at the event. Model for others the best way to interact with your child and this will help you keep it simple yourself!
- Minimize all demands.This is not the time to show off your child. This is a time to make sure you help your child reduce their anxiety to the best of your ability. Do not add new demands and limit the current ones when at your get-together.
- Educate your friends and family!This is one of the most important tips I can give. If they know what to expect and how they can be of help to you, it will be a much more enjoyable experience for all (but especially for you)! If your child cannot yet advocate for themselves, then it is your job to do it for them.
There are lots of ways to prepare your child for a get-together outside of your home. The important message here is that your child needs to be prepared so they know what to expect. It will take some work on your part but it will be so much more enjoyable come party time! We are rooting for you!
Comment below and let us know what strategies you have tried at parties, get-togethers and other types of events to help your child have a successful experience.
Hallie Bulkin, MA, CCC-SLP, owns Little Sprout Speech in North Bethesda, Maryland. She treats children birth to five, specializing in working with children with autism. She also hosts her own blog, Little Sprout Speech.com; [email protected]