Planning successful summer outings with neurodiverse children

Mass Appeal

(Mass Appeal) – Summer is a time for many families to get away and enjoy time together… but planning a successful family outing can be a challenge for families with neurodiverse kids and teens. Here to help us make the process a little less daunting, is clinical psychologist Doctor Sharon Saline.

  1. Pick a location that offers something for everyone and doesn’t require much planning. Talk with your family about the available options and what people want to do so you can all work together on making a good experience for everyone. Brainstorm first and then negotiate any necessary compromises.
  2. Limit your expectations. Whatever happens has to be okay with you and okay with your family. Share your hopes for the day and listen to theirs. Be open-minded.
  3. Give your teen or child a few specific, simple tasks to do in preparation that are written down and can be checked off. This gives them more practice in developing those ever-needed executive planning and organizing skills.
  4. Create guidelines about appropriate behaviors for the excursion (not more than 2 because the kids won’t likely remember them). These should revolve around safety primarily and be logical and explicit (e.g. no swimming alone or without permission, no hiking away from the group, no wandering off from the picnic area). Remind your child or teen of these 2 guidelines as you arrive at the location and ask them to repeat them back to you. This verbal repetition signals to you that they’ve got it.
  5. Focus on the positive. There will likely be a blip or two. Something may happen that may frustrate you or your familty. That’s a normal part of being together and doing an activity. Take a deep breath, focus on what’s most important and help your son or daughter recalibrate.

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