I live and work in Utah, where family reunions are big annual events. So many of the families I know are bringing their ASD child to a family reunion and hoping for the best. I suggest planning for the best, rather than hoping for the best, and recommend bringing a survival kit of helpful supplies.
I think that many families affected by ASDs already have this skill down, but those new to the spectrum might be able to use a few ideas. A couple of posts ago I gave a suggestion for having a special calm down spot for your ASD child. However, having a special spot at home doesn’t do any good when you are out and about! Therefore, bring along supplies that may be helpful – for helping the child to stay emotionally regulated, for entertainment, and to provide some structure for potential interaction (rather than expecting your ASD child to just “go play”). Although I am writing this with children in mind, the same type of skill can apply for an adult.
What to include in your survival kit?
- Snacks and a drink (especially important if your child follows any special diet or is a very restrictive or picky eater).
- A book or some other way to read (such as a Kindle).
- A game or activity that can be played alone, such as a handheld game, a puzzle, a craft or legos, word searches, suduko.
- A simple game or activity that can be played with someone else: a deck of cards, Four in a Row, chess set, checkers. If social interaction is going to happen, structuring that interaction will help. For instance, an elementary school age ASD child may be more successful playing a game of chess or checkers with Uncle Harry, then just sitting down to visit with Uncle Harry.
- A MP3 player with a favorite book, music or relaxation soundtrack to listen to.
- Items soothing to the senses: favorite blanket or pillow, stuffed animal, gum, scented lotion.
- Fidgets such as stress balls, certain toys.
- What about a children’s book that explains an ASD that could be easily read or glanced through by relatives (I recommend: All Cats Have Asperger Syndrome)?
- Things to protect the senses, such as earplugs, noise canceling headphones, sunglasses, beach umbrella.
Next post I’ll give some other ideas about how to set things up at the reunion.
What kinds of things do you bring with you to make family reunions work for your loved one on the spectrum?