Submitted by Terri Gowey, Chief Operating Officer
Going into the community with a child with behavioral challenges can be anxiety producing. Here are some helpful tips to assist you when going into the community:
Be aware of the environment in which you are going and potential sensory aversions.
- Bring items, such as sound muffling headphones, sun glasses, their favorite hat, etc., that will help your child if they may experience sensory overload
- Pick a time when the environment is less likely to be crowded.
- Prior to visits, become familiar with where exits and bathrooms are.
Be aware of environmental risks such as water that is close by, a busy street, a preferred item your child might dart toward.
Review expectations with your child prior to going into the community.
- If your child is a visual learner, using visuals to go over those expectations and provide visual cues while in the community are helpful.
Have preferred items or small rewards (reinforcers) available for community activities.
- Provide behavior specific verbal praise when your child is doing what is expected, for example, “You are doing such a nice job pushing the shopping cart.”
Plan for behavioral challenges.
- You may need to leave a cart of groceries or other items behind to exit the store quickly.
If it is a new or less preferred community activity, it may be helpful to slowly introduce your child to the community activity.
- Practice at home by simulating the environment you will be going to.
- Take pictures of a child engaging in the community activity and make a booklet to go over with your child beforehand.
- Start by driving by the location, another day go up to the door and look around, the next day go into the office, etc.
- This has been helpful for doctor or dentist visits, it is best to communicate with the provider ahead of time to come up with a plan that works for you, your child, and the practitioner.