As COVID restrictions begin to reduce globally, we can start to make plans to spend time with our extended friends and family once again. This means that you’re bound to be receiving invites for large-scale events such as reunions, birthday parties, and even weddings. While a big event is enough to make anyone feel a little anxious from time to time, they can be even more daunting for those with autism or related disorders.
This is because they are often crowded and noisy, leaving children feeling stressed or overstimulated, particularly if they deal with sensory issues. Furthermore, children with autism and related disorders may sometimes find it harder to respond to social cues, meaning they may find socializing within a formal setting particularly difficult. Despite this, it’s important that you do not exclude them from the event altogether by leaving them at home – after all, they are a member of the family, and their presence is just as important as anyone else’s. With that in mind, here are some ways in which you can help make it easier for your child with autism to attend a big family event.
Add the event to your calendar as soon as possible.
Children with autism and related disorders often value routine. It allows them to ground themselves in the world around them and prepare themselves for any changes that might be coming their way. Therefore, one way in which you can help them prepare for the family event is by adding the event to your calendar as soon as possible. You can then talk them through the process, giving them an idea of precisely what to expect when they attend the event. You could even ‘rehearse’ certain scenarios, such as the kind of conversation they might have or the food they might eat.
Planning ahead for the event also means that you could spend some time discussing the party during an online therapy session. At Alee Behavioral, we’re always on hand to provide you with the tools and techniques you need to help your child thrive in any situation.
Bring plenty of snacks with you.
While there will likely be a variety of delicious food and drink to enjoy at the party, they may not always be the best choice for your child. Regardless of any special dietary requirements, they might have, they may be unwilling to try new foods as they prefer to stick to things they already know they enjoy. While it’s good to encourage them to step out of their comfort zone, as they are already in an unfamiliar environment, bringing some food and drinks along with you is a great way to help them feel a little more relaxed and comfortable.
Bring headphones and toys.
If the event includes loud music (or you are already dreading your aunt bringing out the karaoke machine), it may also be beneficial to bring along some headphones for your child to wear, especially if they have expressed some kind of sensitivity to loud noises in the past. You should also ensure that your child has plenty of toys or activities on hand that they can use to keep themselves entertained during the event so that they do not feel left out or bored.
Be prepared to leave early.
While your child may be trying their absolute best to get involved in the party, it’s essential that you do not force them to stay in a situation that they find particularly uncomfortable. If you notice any signs of discomfort or struggle, it may be time to say your goodbyes and head home to avoid upsetting your child. If your child is particularly hesitant ahead of time, you could make a compromise wherein you agree to spend a set amount of time at the party (i.e., a few hours) – but you must ensure you hold up your end of the bargain if this is the case.