This Is What The Perfect Backyard for a Child with Autism Should Include

If you have a child with autism spectrum, then you’re well aware of the challenges that come with heightened sensitivity (or sensory aversion), obsessive interests, repetitive gestures, loss of language and/or social skills, and a lack of interest in pretend play. In order to help combat some of these symptoms, it’s important that you create a safe home environment and make time for fun activities. There’s no better way to do that than by making sure your own backyard is functional, entertaining, and void of hazards. Here’s how to do just that.

 

Address Safety Issues

 

First and foremost, you’ve got to make sure your yard is safe, keeping in mind your child’s sensory sensitivities and general personality traits. If you’ve got a pool, install an alarm that goes off each time someone enters (or falls) into the pool without warning. Store a first aid kit near the pool and consider making sure everyone in your family is trained on CPR. Studies indicate that autistic children tend to wander, so consider installing a fence and place locks on any gates exiting the space. Worst case scenario, make sure they’re sporting an updated medical ID bracelet. When not in use, lock up all gardening and grilling equipment, including any caustic chemicals.

 

Plant a Sensory Garden

 

A sensory garden that encourages touching, tasting, hearing, and smelling can heighten awareness while promoting a positive learning experience for an autistic child. Plant shrubs that are strong enough to withstand frequent handling and are in a variety of textures such as fuzzy leaves, scratchy bark, and velvety flowers. Along with fragrant buds, aromatic herbs such as parsley, mint, tarragon, and thyme can encourage sniffing — and tasting.

 

Many autistic children enjoy being around water, and it can also have a calming effect. Ponds and fountains can provide a visual and audible appeal, but simple sprinklers or garden hoses can also have an impact. If your child is helping you with gardening activities like digging and planting, make sure everyone is outfitted with a good pair of gloves.  

 

Set-Up Outdoor Games

 

Outdoor activities provide sensory and large movement stimulation, which is magnified by the mood-boosting effects of the sun, tranquil breezes, and the sounds of the great outdoors. Take advantage of pleasant weather by setting up a variety of backyard games such as an obstacle course with hula hoops, jump ropes, tires, and logs, or a treasure hunt comprised of natural elements such as pine cones, leaves, and flowers. Old-school games such as follow the leader, hide and seek, and Simon says also have a place here. Switch things up by spending time after dark by roasting marshmallows (just make sure to be mindful of fire safety), having an outdoor campout, or identifying the constellations in the nighttime sky.

 

Like eating properly, getting enough rest, and attending school, play is a crucial link to the development of children, including those with special needs such as autistic spectrum. Child’s play is not forced, therefore it encourages kids to develop natural instincts and a spontaneous nature while helping them mentally, physically, emotionally, and socially. Just keep in mind that autistic kids may not realize they are too hot, so make sure your child hydrates before, during, and after their time spent outdoors. If they’re not used to spending a lot of time outside, start with shorter sessions before letting him/her spend their entire afternoon in the sunshine. Overstimulation can have a counterproductive side effect, so make sure you’re monitoring their behavior during playtime. And don’t forget to have fun!

Traveling Tips for Autism Parents

Traveling Tips for Autism Parents

Traveling can be daunting for EVERYONE let alone parents. Parents with children on the spectrum can face additional challenges when being presented with a new location, new faces, and loud environments, but this shouldn’t stop you from enjoying your trip! Today I’m going to talk to you about my experiences and some tips to make traveling with your child easier.

I started traveling with Zachary way before he was even one year old. I would say he was probably between 6-9 months old. I started implementing a lot of rules and tools WAY before I knew he was even on the spectrum. AS I learned, I had to modify and make it even clearer.

Step One: PLAN

We need to know where we’re going, how exactly will this trip be? Identify what method of transportation you will be using. Are you going to take a train, plane etc. Once you have identified this, next comes to how are we going to make this possible? For me, I always book Zachary on late night flights or later in the evening because I knew he would sleep during those times. So finding that time when your child is most calm will work best for you.

You will also want to schedule and let the airline know that you are coming with a special needs child. You can contact the airline ahead of time and let them know ahead of time and TSA officer will come in and guide you to prevent going through the long lines and allow you to go through the process MUCH easier. Some travelers with disabilities find it useful to notify the airport so that they can arrange any assistance ahead of time.

Part of the planning is making sure that are using as many tools as you can so that what you have ahead of you is as seamless as possible. The more you plan, the better the results will be.

 

Step Two: PREPARE

Part of the preparation is getting all of the tools you need together. What activities will they need on the plane to keep them busy? Can you give them a book or read a book or use social stories to help them to know about the process of traveling? Let them know that you will be going on an airplane. These are some of the rules. You can even imitate what this looks like in your home. You can show this using a computer or other technology letting them see what that process will be like. Let them know they will be going to an airport, let them know they will get on an airplane, let them know they will be going through a metal detector.

Zachary and I used to practice “walking like a soldier” because he used to try to walk and rub into the corners which would set it off.

Also, allow PLENTY of time. You never know what may happen, long lines at the airport, a tantrum going through security, a potty break in line. Make sure you allow yourself enough time for any potential roadblocks in the way.

You will also want to double, triple check your bags! Did you pack all the activities you need for them? Remember to keep medications and valuables in your carry-on so you know you’ll have them.

Call the airline in advance. Call the airline ahead of time (at least 72 hours in advance) to let them know that you will be traveling with a child with special needs. Depending on the special need, agents may guide you through security and even settle you on board the plane in front of general boarding to avoid any mishaps. They can also arrange for a wheelchair if a family member can’t walk all the way to the gate, or extra assistance for those who are traveling alone with their special needs child.

Put on loose-fitting clothing for you and your child. You will want to make sure to avoid setting off any metal detectors along the way and making the security lines as easy a process as possible, so make sure your child is wearing shoes that are easy takeoff. I also tend to wear fewer layers if possible (obviously not in winter) or take off the coats and jackets and put them in a bag before you get in line for security so you’re not stalled in line. Fewer carry-ons can cut down on the stress factor.  There are lines specifically for special needs that typically accommodate families as well. Follow these links for TSA family and special needs details.

TSA Pre-Check Expedited Screening can also be helpful.

 

 

So you want to plan and prepare these things by letting them know ahead of time and letting them practice. Even pack headphones, you’re going to be a noisy airport, you may be around a lot of people, you want to make sure you give them as many tools. IPADs, favorite toys. I always bring Zachary’s trains and books. and playdoh. Snacks, beverage and games and activities that will keep them busy.

 

STEP 3: Proceed to get it DONE!

We have put it off for too long. Too many of us are out there planning on these trips but somehow not doing it. I talked to one of my clients, who is 12 years, and they have not yet traveled with their child. You won’t know until you do it! So proceed to get it done! You may need to start with a shorter trip, just to see what that looks like.  Or you may just need to practice some of these techniques. Don’t let Autism stand in your way!

Additional Resources:

Family Travel and Autism:

Time for Everyone to Have Fun!

www.autismtravel.org

Medical Travel, Inc.

The Disability Travel Experts

www.medicaltravel.org

Travelers with Children with Disabilities and Medical Conditions – What Parents and Guardians Should Do

Transportation Security Administration ( See Attached Video )

Amtrak: Services for People with Disabilities and Special Needs

Information for individuals with disabilities looking to ride the train.

Autism on the Seas

Group and individual vacation options

for adults and families dealing with autism

and related disabilities.

Autism Adventure Travel

Travel Services for special needs families. Our Specialists will plan your vacation itinerary or can book you on one of our great vacations all with your special needs in mind.