Leisure activities like going to the movies or a baseball game are supposed to be fun for the whole family. However, for an individual with special needs, these activities can be overwhelming at times. In addition, they can be unnerving for parents due to the many “what if’s.” While some venues may be inappropriate, there are many places your family can go to have a good time. The key to success is picking the right activity. With a little advanced planning and the right attitude the whole family can have fun!
Determine Everyone’s Interests and Needs
When choosing an activity, it is important to consider everyone’s age, interests and personality. Look for an activity that coincides with your child’s abilities while at the same time is stimulating the other individuals involved. Furthermore, think about the goals that your child has been working toward during the school year and how they can be incorporated into the activity!
Don’t Be Afraid to Take Risks
Children’s interests and abilities are frequently changing. They may no longer be interested in or fear something they did in the past. If you don’t try new things, you’ll never know how wonderful they can be! However, when taking a risk, be sure to have a back up plan just in case things don’t work out as planned.
Start with Free Events
High prices create high expectations. The goal is to have fun and not worry about getting your money’s worth. If the activity is free, you won’t feel bad walking away if it doesn’t work out. Check out NJ Kids Online for a calendar of free events!
Take Advantage of Minor Leagues and Local Colleges
Inexpensive tickets, shorter lines at the concessions and bathrooms, seats closer to the action and better parking options are all benefits of going to a minor league or college game. In addition, they usually have fun activities for kids throughout the game.
Prepare Your Child at Home
It is important to talk to your child about the activity in advance. Use visual supports, social stories, pretend play and even ‘apps’ on the iPad, iTouch or iPhone to help your child learn what to expect. Describe what your child will see and the sensations they may hear and feel. By preparing your child at home, you can desensitize them to the items/events in the community.
Bring a Sensory Tool Bag
Take along a bag/backpack that includes sunglasses/cap, a package of wipes (for sticky hands), hand fidget, headphones with music for a break, crunchy/chewy snack/gum (if appropriate), drink.
Be a Soothing Example
This may be most important. Children can sense their parent’s mood and they often respond accordingly. Success will come in small steps, so go slowly, and be sure to closely monitor your child’s feelings. You may need to attend the event a few times before your child can fully participate.
Be Patient and Focus on the Positive
Please do not become discouraged. Focus on your child’s success. Make sure to praise your child for waiting nicely, keeping a calm body and using self-regulation strategies. Try to take lots of pictures! These are great memories and they can also be used as visual supports when you’re preparing your child for future family outings.
Fun For All
Sensory Friendly Entertainment