By: Jane Lynn – Owner Navigate Autism
About the Author:
Jane Lynn Britton, was a professional HR leadership trainer and coach for 20 years. She quit her career to homeschool her son, William, with autism. That was 8 years ago. Today, both Jane Lynn and William are stronger, more confident, relaxed and happy. William is back in school, and Jane Lynn partners with parents who want to create a more relaxed and harmonious life for themselves and to help their children thrive. She does this through her business venture, "Navigate Autism with Jane Lynn". Oh, and by the way, William is one of our Superheroes!
Avoid the stress of summer outings by using The 6 P’s for an Effective Outing
“We get to go to the store! Show me where you want to go!” When I say these magic words to my son, William, he gets so excited that he immediately gets ready and goes to the car with a wide smile and sparkling eyes. My heart is so full of love for him as well as enthusiasm for our outing, that I can’t even remember the day when I used to dread taking him out of the house. Yet, there was a time that my fear of his unexpected behavior and of everyone’s judgment kept me home. Not so long ago when we needed to go out, I was apprehensive and stressed. However, this changed once I decided to let go of the judgments from myself and others, and learned how to create effective and fun outings.
There are 6 key steps, which are very simple, and if you follow them one-by-one, you will see how easy it is to go on outings that leave both you and your child wanting more! Even in the summer time, when stores are crowded and people are more animated and loud.
Step 1: Plan
Don’t just show up. Plan before you go. If you can, check out the location before you go with your child. If it’s a small store or you are going to visit a friend or family member’s house, talk to them and explain what kind of outing you are doing and what you hope to accomplish, as well as what they might expect when you come. You can also ask for their help in some way in order to ensure a smooth outing, and to prepare them for your visit. Also, answer these questions for yourself:
- What do I want to do?
- Where do I want to go?
- Who is going?
- What time of day is calm at this place?
- How long will it take to get there?
- How do I get there?
- Where is the best place to park near my destination?
- Where is the bathroom?
- What do I need to take? (e.g. extra clothes, snack, etc.)
- What are the obstacles, if any about this outing?
Step 2: Prepare
This step is to think of all the things that you are going to need to take with you and to then pack them all before you leave. Some of these items may include:
- Extra clothes
- Hand wipes
- Chew toy
- Hand/fidget toy
- Child’s wallet (if going to store)
- Communication device (if use one)
- Your wallet
- Your phone
- Your glasses
One thing I would suggest is to put everything in a backpack that you will wear during the outing. This will keep your hands free to open doors, guide your child, help pick out items, help pay, etc. Also, wear pockets to put your keys into and small things that you may need in an instant.
When you arrive at the destination, ask your child to get the backpack out of the car. This will slow him down and keep him from hopping out of the car and running across the parking lot. It also gives him something weighted to carry, which helps to ground his body and focus his attention.
Once your child is focused and next to you, you can take the backpack and put it on your back. Now, after following these steps, you are ready to go….and your hands are FREE and ready to help your child in any way.
Step 3: Patient
Patience is key! The one thing we can count on is that there will be surprises. And since our children are so connected with us, as well as sensitive, they respond to our emotions. Therefore, it is not surprising that when we stay relaxed and patient, our children are more relaxed. And when this happens, they stay connected with us and listen better. They also don’t want or need to run or get away, which interestingly, helps us to be even calmer and it gives us more control of the situation.
Sometimes being patient is saying that it’s OK to leave the store or outing earlier than expected, even right after it starts. If your goal is to have a successful outing, but your child is not able to do that today for some reason, it’s OK. With patience, you help your child take care of himself/herself. This also builds trust, and the next time you suggest an outing, your child will most likely want to go, because s/he knows you will be flexible and respond to his/her needs with love and support. And, then with persistence, you can start to have longer, more enjoyable outings.
Step 4: Praise
Who doesn’t like to be praised or celebrated for what they have done? We want to motivate our children to continue to be calm, focused and to listen during the outing, and praise will help us achieve this. We can say things such as: "Thank you for helping me with that backpack." Or, "Nice job walking calmly with me into the mall." Every little thing that your child is doing is praise-worthy.
It’s easy to praise when they do something well. But, what is really POWERFUL and creates the most successful outing is when we praise our children even when they do something we don’t want. Because of this, they will calm down, trust us, and listen better. For instance, if your child takes the cart and runs through the store screaming, praise him/her for showing you that s/he wanted to go to a different part of the store...or that something was bothering him/her and s/he needed to go to a more comfortable place. Then lovingly tell him/her that a better way to do it is to walk calmly so s/he doesn’t run into or scare anyone. This will surprise your child, who is waiting to be reprimanded, because your child is smart and knows the behaviors that you like or call “good behavior”. And when s/he is feeling supported and loved, s/he will listen better and become calmer in the store.
Step 5: Put it to use
Giving your outings relevance and purpose not only teaches your children more about life, but also motivates them to want to go out more. If you're out shopping and you buy something, use it right when you get home. If you went to an event and you took pictures, print out the pictures, and show it to your child as soon as you can. All of this brings relevance and purpose to what you've done, and it inspires him/her to want to go on more outings.
Step 6: Practice
The final step is Practice! Continue to go on outings, because the more you practice, the more routine, comfort and joy you will build. I've had times where it's been stressful when we went out in the community, and as a result I didn't want to go again. But, I didn’t give in. I continued to practice and use these six P’s, and it eventually became easier. And today, my son and I both look for as many opportunities as we can to go out together.