One of the great things about homeschooling your child is that you set the pace and you can decide the activities you want to do. I am a firm believer that the world needs to experience kids like ours and our kids need to experience the world. Sometimes behaviors can be a struggle, but please remember behaviors are a form of communication and there are things that we can do to make community outings and field trips, easy and fun. Mindset is important. Go into any situation prepared and the more practice you get, the easier these outings will become. Community outings are so important and I have seen so much growth with them.
Here are my 5 tips for taking your kids on community outings.
Focus on Communication
Community outings are such an amazing and unique opportunity to add communication. If you are going to a restaurant, have your child order their meal. If they are a Picture Exchange user, tell the waitress how they will be ordering and give them a brief explanation of what will be happening. If your child uses an iPad, have them order this way. If your child is like my oldest, who has amazing verbal abilities, but high social anxiety, give him a communication tool to ease anxiety. Davyd uses Picture Exchange and it helps him so much. He uses pictures to help organize his thoughts and it also helps with sentence building.
Prepare for The Outing
Before you leave, try and think about the things that can happen: spills on clothes, bathroom accidents, long wait times, snacks, etc., and then pack these things. I know if Ben gets his shirt wet, he will get upset and need a new one. I pack extra clothes and the boys carry a backpack. Also, don’t forget the things for communication. I like to look at restaurant menus online and make picture cards to match the menu. If you use an electronic device for communication, make sure these pictures are accessible on your device. You can also ask for a kid’s menu and laminate it to create picture cards. Lessonpix is an excellent program for this. It is a quick and easy way to make cards for your adventures. If you are going to the library, make cards for the types of books your child likes so they can request them. If your child’s anxiety is eased with social stories or schedules, ensure you are also prepping these things. It may sound like a lot of work, but it will make these outings more fun and less stressful if your child isn’t anxious.
Bring Boredom Busters
This is part of the prep, but it must be emphasized as it will help so much. I am not the biggest fan of electronics, but for some kids, it does help relax them in unfamiliar situations. I personally like to pack fidgets, poppers, pop tubes, emotional support stuffed animals, and whatever they need. George still carries his Halloween pail with us. It makes him happy, so I am happy. Sometimes my boys get overstimulated, and I grab my phone to play one of their favorite songs on YouTube to distract them if we are waiting in line, for our food, or something else. I have a small PECs “wait” card in our travel PECs book to remind them and give them the visual. Use what works for your child and what you feel comfortable with because that will bring you success.
Bring helpers if you can.
Community outings can be a little stressful as your child gets used to them. They may also be stressful for you. Is there anyone you can bring with you? Maybe you can take your child’s OT, SLP, or BCBA with you. I have always stressed the importance of a great therapy team when you homeschool and these therapy sessions do not always have to be sitting at a table. Communication is everywhere, bring your speech therapist, if they are able. Ours is amazing and helps the boys order at restaurants and engage with people socially in the community. Since we have included community outings once a week, all of my boys are communicating more verbally. Speech also includes feeding therapy and you can try new foods at restaurants. Occupational therapy has so many ways it can help children. We love taking our OT with us places! She has taught the boys how to ring up groceries at self-checkouts and works on using utensils at restaurants, not to mention sensory and impulse control during these new and unfamiliar activities. ABA therapy is a huge help for community outings. They can help with language, following directions, behaviors and also help coach the parent to make community outings easier for them.
Remember The Big Picture
There can be several reasons to go on community outings depending on what you are doing, but the big picture is you want your child to experience the world, and getting out of the house has so many opportunities. You can start going on educational outings, fun amusement parks, everyday errands, whatever you like, but start somewhere where you, the parent are most comfortable and build from there. Work on essential skills when they present themselves. Waiting is a huge skill to work on when you are out in the community. Following directions is huge. You have to look both ways to cross the street, right?
Like so many things in our beautiful world of autism and various exceptionalities, it will be hard at first, but then it gets easier. Do not feel like a failure if it does not go as planned. We do these all the time now and occasionally, we have a really weird or bad experience. Laugh it off and move on to the next outing. Nothing in life goes as planned and that is what makes it fun. You are going to do great!
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We can all learn so much from one another! I love it that your boys keep expanding their world with these new adventures!
Happy to hear this was helpful! Thanks for reading 🙂
Thank you, Stacey! They are doing so well with these. I have noticed a significant improvement in communication and behavior.