If there is one thing I love at this time of year, it has to be school trips.
Not only are they great fun – both for students and for staff, but they are also a fantastic way of building relationships and sharing experiences. Both of which are things that make a huge difference long after the trip is over,
For children and young people with autism however, trips don’t always turn out as positively as we would hope. For that reason I’ve put together a series of guidelines that can help both parents and school staff ensure that the day is a good one.
Look At The Website, A Leaflet Or Photographs Of The Venue
Preparing your child in advance of the visit, by looking at the website, leaflets of the venue or photographs that the school have taken on previous visits can be really helpful. Not only does it help them to worry less because they can envision what the day will look like, but it avoids unnecessary disappointment on the day, if the arrive and there isn’t something there that they were expecting.
Looking through these several times prior to the visit will help them to build up their familiarity and lesson anxiety levels.
Go On A Pre-Visit
If the venue is near enough to do so, going on a pre-visit as a family can really help children and young people feel more comfortable about attending the venue with school. It means. They know in advance where things like the toilets are and know exactly what to expect on the day.
Just one quick word of caution though, prior to your visit ensure you check with the school which parts of the attraction will be visited on the trip so that your child doesn’t start to expect something that won’t be included.
Make A Schedule
When visiting somewhere to do something that differs from the normal a schedule is always a good port of call. For younger children this can be done using pictorial symbols, for older ones a written list works well, and for teens a list on the notes section of their mobile phone helps to keep the strategy age appropriate.
A schedule not only allows young people to predict their day, but reduces the anxiety caused by changes. Check out our scheduling video for tips on how to keep schedules flexible.
Take A Packed Lunch
If your child finds eating out difficult or is particular about the presentation of their food, a back up packed lunch in their bag can go a long way to reassuring them that whatever happens they will have something with them that they can eat. It doesn’t stop them joining in with their class or eating the food on offer, but is does provide a reduction of anxiety both before and during the mean because they realise that they have a choice.
Track Down A Break Our Area
Speaking to staff at the venue in advance to determine whether there is somewhere quiet available for children who need it can make a huge difference, especially at busy venues. Being able to get away from the group for a short period of time, to recharge batteries can make an enormous difference. Often even if it isn’t used on the day, just knowing the option is available can be a huge factor in reducing anxiety levels.
Factor In Special Interests
It can be really hard for young people to take a break when their peers are all having fun. Yet we know only too well that sometimes those breaks are critical to the success of the rest of the day. Packing a bag with special interest related activities can really encourage a young person to do just that. It gives them an option of still being able to have fun, whilst allowing them to self regulate their emotions and therefore enjoy the rest of the day.
Don’t Underestimate The Power Of Technology
If there is one piece of kit that I never leave school without on school trip days, it’s a couple of iPads. For my students iPad access is pretty much the holy grail, and I know that if I get into a sticky spot they will help me get out of it. Whether it’s appointing young people as official photographers, or using them as a way to encourage children to take a break if things are getting too much, there is nothing quite like technology for saying – you are doing an amazing job, I get it, this is hard, but together we can do it.
Why not join our lovely, friendly Facebook Group full of parents and teachers working together to share strategies to help our children.
If you do want to learn more you might find our autism section a useful place to start. It’s full of different strategies to try out.
Or if you’re looking for more personal support to help you take that action, why not check out our Consultancy Services.