For many families, the summer can mean trips to favorite theme parks, like Six Flags, Disney, Busch Gardens, or Cedar Point, but for parents with children with autism, this may require some extra planning. Weather conditions, loud noises, and long lines are among a variety of issues that can be a recipe for extra-sensory overload for children with ASD. But, if you do your homework and plan appropriately, theme parks are accommodating locations that your family can enjoy this summer.
Every family’s experience with autism is completely unique, so going to the theme park may not be a great fit for you, but before you cross it off the list, here are some things to consider.
Ride Accessibility Program
Most theme parks now have ride accessibility programs, with special ride access for individuals with disabilities, such as ASD. If you look at the theme park’s website, you can find information about the particular accessibility program that they have. Guest service stations can provide you with the forms and information you need for your child. These programs outline the types of rides that you child can enjoy, and they are often given designated times to ride different attractions, which can help you bypass some of the overstimulating sounds and people. This is a wonderful way to make sure your child can experience all the fun.
Know Where to Go
Before you step foot in a theme park with your child, it’s a good idea to have a pre-set plan. Navigating a park can be an already overwhelming ordeal, and this can be cause for panic in a child with autism. If you map out the places you will be visiting ahead of time, you can share that information with your child and alleviate any anxiety that he/she may feel. Individuals with autism function more comfortably within a routine, so having an outline of what the day will look like can give them more peace of mind. You can even print out a map of the park and show them the different places you will be walking to and from. An hour-by-hour schedule can highlight meals, locations, and “relax” zones. If your child has a tendency to become overstimulated, identifying more calm spots within the park can help you know where to take your loved in if he/she is overwhelmed.
Be Ready for Anything
Even when you are the most prepared, there is always a chance that unexpected events occur, such as bad weather, ride closures, or illness. For a child with ASD, any upset in a schedule can be exceedingly disappointing and cause for a tantrum. Be prepared for the unexpected. Before you leave for the park, you can talk your child through different, possible scenarios. Talk them through what you will do if those situations occur.
No matter what situation you are in, the safety of your child should always be a priority. When you’re in a public space there are different safety hazards that you don’t have to be as concerned with in the home. An identification wristband or tag on your child’s clothes is always a great idea. Talk to your child about what he/she should do if they get lost, and discuss the dangers of strangers. This can help give your child the tools that he/she needs to stay safe.
Being a parent to a child with autism is a life-long journey of learning. At Hidden Treasures, we can help your child “Discover the Treasure Within” through our ABA therapy services. Learn more about Our Program and contact us TODAY!