Summer is the season that provides a sunny change of pace and a fun, relaxing break from routine. But while outdoor activities such as picnics and barbeques might be a great way to enjoy summer, that change in routine can present challenges to people on the Autism Spectrum – as well as those who love them.
With a bit more planning, those with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) can enjoy participating in outdoor summer activities alongside everyone else. But as with most situations, advance preparation is key.
Minimize Fear of Fireworks
For festivities that include fireworks, show your child live videos and pictures of fireworks in advance of the bombs bursting in air. If possible, play videos with the sound of fireworks to help your loved one practice hearing the sounds in advance.
Review Behavioral Expectations
Safety first! Make sure to set expectations for behavior around fire, barbecues, and bodies of water. Practice safety behaviors before heading out to the celebration to make sure everyone understands. Provide examples of safe behavior in the form of video models, role play (act it out), or pictures of someone behaving safely. And it doesn’t hurt to review once again upon arrival.
Prevent Sensory Overload
If sensory processing challenges dampen get-togethers – and your family member tolerates headphones or earplugs -bring ear protection with you to the celebration. If covering or plugging one’s ears is a new concept, then have your loved one practice wearing them in advance of the party. Self-selecting the headphones or earplugs, or even adding their own touch to the headphones with stickers or favorite characters, might increase their willingness to try.
Maintain Routines When Possible
In addition to advance planning, keeping familiarity and routine as much as possible will go far to reassure that all is well. Familiar foods, a favorite item/ “lovey”, or other comfort objects brought to unfamiliar places or events can help allay anxieties.
Prepare an “Exit Plan”
If all else fails, having an exit plan prepared “just in case” the situation becomes too extreme for your loved one will help calm everyone’s fears. Don’t be afraid to leave early or walk away from the excitement and celebration for a break.
Summer fun awaits!