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Trying New Things With My Son Who Is on the Autism Spectrum

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There is no denying there are some activities that are more challenging to do with your child when they are on the spectrum. All sorts of things factor into the overall outcome of whatever it is you have set out to do. You think about sensory overload, how their day was yesterday, if this outing will mess with their schedule or routine, and you think about all of the possible outcomes of the situation.

The thing is, when you are going to a doctor’s appointment or therapy appointment, you still think about all of these things but you go because you have to, no matter what the outcome.

Instead of thinking of all of the things that could go wrong, or wondering if our children will like it, perhaps we should also take this approach with the fun things in life. If it turns out they don’t like the activity or event that you attend, then I understand you probably wouldn’t go again. I think it is really important our kids have the chance to make that decision on their own.

We have tried several different sports, activities, places to go out to dinner, etc. Have all of them ended in pure joy? Of course not, we all have personal preference and the things you may think are fun could be different from your friends or family. The important thing is that you keep trying new things, and if you find something your child loves, you keep doing it!

It would be easy to talk yourself out of doing events that may sound challenging. You might even tell yourself, “He is just so happy at home.” Possibly, but he could really enjoy the event you are talking yourself out of. What is the worst that can happen? If they don’t like it, you can always leave, and if you think they did like it but it was too overwhelming and you left, you can always try again with more supports.

When we started to go to sensory friendly movies, we saw just the beginning of quite a few movies. My son would say he wanted to go to the movie, we would get there, and he would watch 10-15 minutes of the movie before he would ask to go; then it became 20-30 minutes. The progress was slow but he wanted to go. So we went and eventually he sat through an entire movie and we couldn’t be more proud! He wanted to go to the movies, but that didn’t make it any easier for him to be able to sit through the whole thing.

In my experience, I base whether or not my son liked something on things other than how he acted while we were doing it. For example, how much he brings it up after the event is over or if he acts like he wants to do it again. Since my son is nonverbal, we make stories for a lot of the things we do using an app on his iPad. It is easy to tell when he really likes something if he watches the story over and over or shows it to others. That doesn’t always mean the event was perfect or that he never struggled. What it does mean, is that it was worth it. To him, being overwhelmed or struggling at the time didn’t make it less worth it. If it was worth it to him, who I am to say, “We should skip that, he might struggle,” or “What if he get’s overwhelmed?”

I guess some things are just worth getting overwhelmed for.

Try the fun stuff. It might work out and it might not, but you never know unless you try.

We take my son to Superkids at Soapbox Derby. No, it isn’t always perfect. He struggles to wait his turn and in general wait for it to start. However, when you see his huge smile as he experiences the thrill of coming down the hill, it is all worth it. He shows these stories to people all the time.

It isn’t always easy, but it is worth it!

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Originally published: September 15, 2017
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