Mardi Gras Tips for Parents and Caregivers of Children with Autism
With Mardi Gras quickly approaching, attending parades can provide challenges for parents and caregivers of children with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental delays. Here are ten tips for how parents and caregivers can prepare for Carnival Season:
- · Attending parades can be stressful for any family, so it’s crucial to plan ahead. To the best of your ability, have a parking place and area where you’ll be standing figured out ahead of time to avoid last-minute uncertainties.
- · If your child has difficulties with changes to his/her schedule, give your child a “heads up” about the upcoming parade by using a calendar to mark the days until the parade.
- · Help your child know what to expect by reading a book about parades, watching parades on TV or the internet, or make you own story with computer pictures or descriptions your child understands.
- · Set expectations by communicating the plan with the entire family ahead of time. Outline the timeline and rules that need to be followed while at the parades. Some children benefit by having a written or picture sequence of parade day events to use as a checklist.
- · Pack the necessities. Even though there are parades going on, your child might not be interested in them. Pack favorite snacks, toys, puzzles, books and games to provide your child with other preferred activities during the parade.
- · Since parades tend to last a long time, bring a chair or wagon, so your child can sit and rest. Know your child’s limits and your own. A successful 20 minute parade experience is much more memorable and enjoyable than a longer one that ended in distress for you or your child.
- · If noise is a trigger for your child, bring noise cancelling headphones or ear plugs for when the marching bands play.
- · Since some children with autism can impulsively bolt from a safe setting to explore something of interest or remove themselves from a situation they find stressful, be aware of your child’s wandering triggers and have a “buddy” to help keep eyes on your child.
- · Always have an exit strategy ready to go and practice it. Look for parking that allows easy access and/or a quiet place nearby to retreat if needed. For your first parade, plan to stay a shorter time and leave before any challenging behaviors occur.
- · The most important tip: reinforce your child’s desired behaviors throughout the planning, preparation, and parade experience; notice and be lavish in your praise and attention when your child is doing well. Celebrate the small successes!