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Summer Holidays: Autism Friendly Days Out

10 June 2024

Managing days out with autistic children can be a challenge. Many of our children need the support of a practice run, experiencing the journey via video, or accessing online information about the place you are visiting. This article, written by Anne-Marie Harrison, Education Director from Ideas Afresh, shares top tips and ideas for navigating autism-friendly days out this summer.

Keep your bag selection accessible and organised

Think about the type of bag you are packing for your child. Choose a suitable sized bag with various compartments that you can use to section out your child's ear defenders, fiddle toys, chews, sarong or wrap, which can be found calmly without rummaging through everything. This can help to reduce anxiety and stress. 

Selection is also about decision making and choices. Allow your child to be involved in the selection and packing process so that they can see exactly what you are taking and so they can help contribute. This will give your child a sense of involvement and show that their thoughts and feelings matter, whilst also preparing them with tools they might need that day.

Help your child to feel safe and secure

Along with getting them involved with packing their bag, help your child prepare for the day out by providing them with knowledge and information about what to expect. Research and share what you know about a likely experience, offering plenty of visuals, the time it will take to get there, information about parking (if you are driving), if you may have to drive an alternative route to the last time you visited. Some of this information may feel small and irrelevant, but providing as much knowledge as possible helps to reduce anxiety and help your young person feel safe, prepared and secure.

Another way to help your child feel prepared could be to do run-throughs of scenarios. For example, it may mean having a picnic in the lounge, and then the garden, before progressing to the park, so that the food, drinks and picnic rug remain the same experience and only the environment has changed.

For others, role play might be beneficial. Getting out the zoo animals out at home for a zoo set up, or perhaps taking them along to the zoo for a practical 'I Spy' game helps fuse positive connections through practical experience.

This type of planning builds confidence and calmness, empowering our young people to feel enabled and enthusiastic about accepting invitations and enjoying days out.

Keep other people involved and informed

It's important to communicate to any new person or party who you will be meeting. Discuss your child's particular presentation of autism, their tolerance levels and likely responses and reactions (otherwise known as behaviours). The bigger your support circle and the more prepared everyone is, the better the response.

Arranging a back up plan within your party can be a great idea, so that if any issues arise, the day feels adapted rather than abandoned.

SEN Summer Club

For more support and activities in the holidays, download our SEN Summer Club Support Pack.

SEN Summer Club Support Pack

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