With crowds, outdoor gatherings can be overwhelming for some individuals on the autism spectrum. Here are a few tips for how to have an enjoyable and comfortable outing.
1. Use social stories or visuals to prepare him/her for a party. This is best done a few days in advance so he/she will be as comfortable as possible. It also helps to prepare a list of guests’ names and faces beforehand, so that he/she can become familiar with who is coming to the event.
2. Bright and loud, fireworks or bands can be overwhelming for people with ASD. Provide him/her with a way to dampen the sound – headphones, for example. Note that not every person with ASD dislikes these things, but plan for the most difficult scenario.
3. Many events will present him/her with new sights, sounds and smells, so it may help if he/she is provided with familiar food and drink.
4. Make sure he/she has an item from home, such as a magazine or favorite toy, which can provide a distraction in stressful situations.
5. If the situation becomes too intense – during fireworks, for example – he/she may need to leave. Coordinate an escape route and make plans for possible contingencies.
6. Holding a small cookout or other preparatory event the week before the real thing can be great practice.
7. Individuals with ASD can be fearless, and fire can be a hazard to them. Keep an eye on him/her in order to avoid accidents around grills, fireworks and campfires.
8. If he/she relies on sign language, typing or symbols to communicate, make sure he/she knows how to communicate about the food and events he/she may encounter.