The summer vacation is here and with it, invitations to family gatherings and reunions.
For many of us, family gatherings mean happy celebrations and the creation of beautiful memories but for families with autism, they can spell meltdowns and stress.
Since several parents have asked me for tips to help their kids with autism attend family reunions, I decided to compile a short list of the ten best for parents to bookmark, save and share with others.
Introduce your family
Take the time to sit with your kid and introduce him/her to the people they would be meeting at the reunion.
Sharing old family photographs and family stories ( though not the embarrassing ones as they might mention those at inappropriate moments) is a fun and easy way to engage kids of all ages.
Choose appropriate accommodations
If your child is noise sensitive, resist the temptation to stay in jam -packed homes of relatives hosting multiple visiting family members and try to find one who can offer you a spare bedroom and quieter environment.
A better solution if you can afford it is to stay at a nearby hotel where you and your family can relax and get away from all the excitement.
You should scrutinize the reunion itinerary and find ways to adapt it to your child’s schedule and ability.
Sometimes it is better to have your child skip events you think they won’t be able to handle than deal with public meltdowns when they are exhausted for the day or experiencing sensory overload.
Get additional help
Don’t be embarrassed about asking other family members, friends or even hiring someone to help with your child while you are attending events so you too, can have a good time.
Promote family bonding
Invite one or two favorite family members to join you on a daily fun outing to a park, movie theater or even a fast-food joint to help your child get to know them better and eventually feel more comfortable during family gatherings.
Bring your entertainment
Pack toys, games, and electronics that can occupy your child not only on the way to the reunion but during some of the events. If you decide to bring electronic devices, consider investing in an extra recharge cord and an extended life battery in case you forget to recharge the tablet overnight or lose the cable.
Clarify your food options
If your child is a picky eater or on a special diet, make sure you know what the food options are ahead of time and prepare accordingly. In the event lunch or dinner is planned at a family member’s home; let the host know what your child’s allergies and dislikes are.
If restaurant dining is planned-call the venue ahead or check their menu online to find out what dishes would be suitable for your kid.
Arrive a few days ahead
Start your vacation earlier and arrive at the destination, at least, a day even two ahead as many people with autism need extra time to ‘settle in’ and get accustomed to new surroundings.
Forget the dress code
Forcing your kid to wear formal clothes or the customary reunion T-shirt for several hours just to take that family portrait might sound good in theory but might easily trigger behavioral problems in reality.
If your kid suffers from sensory issues letting them wear what they find most comfortable even if it somewhat torn or stained might be the wise way to go.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
Remember nothing’s perfect so no matter how much you’ll plan small incidents might still happen -do your best to relax and enjoy this is a special time with your extended family.
Have you taken your child with autism to a family reunion? Share your story and
Share your story and tips.