For individuals with autism and their parents, community outings can become a source of anxiety and frustration. Unfortunately, outings often come with over-stimulation, full-scale meltdowns, and disapproving looks from strangers.
Because of this, parents often steer clear of public outings, and children miss out on the diverse learning opportunities that come from public settings.
Community outings give those with autism the chance to practice socialization, physical awareness, and promote generalization of skills in the “real world.”
This public exposure can be particularly important, providing a foundation for increased self-confidence and self-awareness. Moreover, guided participation in public helps improve general skills that can be applied in settings like school and work. For example, waiting patiently in line, speaking at a proper volume, staying within an adult’s line of sight, etc.
What is generalization and why is it important?
According to a series authored by the May Institute and National Autism Center experts, the term “generalization” as it relates to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is defined as “the ability to complete a task, perform an activity, or display a behavior across settings, with different people, and at different times.”
So, why is this important? Those on the spectrum who only learn in routine settings often struggle to apply their new skills to other environments. Getting them out of their day-to-day environment and into novel surroundings invites new learning opportunities and, in turn, improves generalization.
How do I apply these techniques as a parent?
Although these community outings might sound like a challenge when going about your daily life at home, they can serve as a fun and interactive way to expose both kids and parents to an exciting new world and way of learning.
How to prepare for community outings:
- First, pre-planning is key. Making an agenda for the day and giving verbal cues ahead of time lets the child know what to expect, which ultimately helps them transition from place to place (or task to task).
- Second, look for opportunities to give your child tasks to do throughout the outing. For example, when at the supermarket, have the child assist with checking off items on the grocery list and putting them in the shopping basket.
- Third, begin with short trips and gradually increase the duration as the child gets more familiar and comfortable with the environment.
- Fourth, creature comforts will ease the stress. Pack a bag with special toys or other preferred items that comfort the child. These are for car rides or for when the child gets overwhelmed or simply needs a break.
- Fifth, start by visiting more familiar places (local parks), then gradually transition to more foreign places like museums.
The broader picture of community outings
Remember those whispers and rude stares we talked about? Undoubtedly, this can be attributed to the lack of widespread diversity awareness. When people see you lovingly and patiently teaching your child life skills in the community, they’re unknowingly getting the chance to learn about the world they live in and the diverse people who make it special.
Bright Mosaic also helps with doctor, dentist, and haircut appointments
Our therapists have attended dozens of these appointments with parents over the years. In all cases, children were more cooperative and parents were glad we came along.
Between strangely dressed people, a clinical environment, and the tools they stick in your ears and mouth, it’s no surprise that a trip to the doctor or dentist is a scary one for some children. Haircuts are somewhere on that list too.
Four major benefits of therapists going to appointments with parents:
- The therapist provides instruction and comfort to the child.
- The appointment is more likely to be successful with ABA in the mix.
- Our therapists can demonstrate ABA strategies to the physician and parents.
- Better generalization of skills and behaviors
So remember parents, having our expert staff guide the child through the process is beneficial for everyone involved, so there’s no need to do this alone!