The start of summer is a significant transition for all children, typically developing or those with developmental or behavioral disorders. For many children, summer means enjoying free time, playing outside with friends and venturing to new places. For some children, all this free choice and drastic change in daily schedules can be overwhelming and even daunting. With a little advance planning and knowledge of useful tips, a summer day outing can be an enjoyable experience for the whole family.
TIPS ON HOW TO PREPARE FOR A DAY OUTING:
- Tell your child a day before the outing of the plans for the following day. This will give them more time to process a change in schedule and reduce the stress of a sudden unexpected change. For example, “Tomorrow we are going to the park to have a picnic with Grandma.” It can be very helpful to practice role playing having a picnic the day before the outing.
- Create rules and clear expectations. Because this may be a new experience for your child, setting up a foundation of what is expected will help your child’s understanding.
- The morning of the outing, create a visual schedule of the day. Bring the schedule with you for reference as needed. Visual tools are great resources that can be a reminder of what is coming next in the day.
- Plan for breaks throughout the day. Periodic breaks may help your child from becoming too over-stimulated or too under-stimulated. These breaks can be scheduled on the visual schedule so your child knows when to expect them.
- Have a plan for if your child becomes overwhelmed/overstimulated and needs a place to calm down. If you are going to a busy area like a zoo or water park, know in advance a quiet location where you and your child can have a quiet break.
- For children with Autism, bring sensory items, fidgets, or any calming resources your child likes. These can be used if a situation is starting to become too overwhelming for your child or they can be used as reinforcements.
- Continue to provide reinforcement throughout the day. This will help your child realize that he is behaving appropriately and you are encouraging him to continue to do so. This reinforcement can be in the form of verbal praise, or try using a token board. Your child earns tokens for appropriate behavior and when the board is full, they earn a chosen reinforcer (like electronics or an ice cream treat).
- Let your child make choices from a selection throughout the day. For example, “do you want to do this or this first?” or “do you want to have lunch before or after our walk?” Allowing your child to make choices strengthens their motivation to follow through.