Tips for Successful Community Outings
When planning a trip into the community, like grocery shopping or going to see a movie, it’s typically most easily done by getting everyone into the car together and taking care of everything at once. However, parents know that this isn’t always feasible, and sometimes special accommodations need to be made. In a recent interview with Metro Parent, Brianna Baird, a Supervising Board Certified Behavior Analyst at our Bingham Farms clinic, discusses a few proactive methods to help make these family outings go more smoothly.
A great way to start is by gearing the first few trips to your child’s interests. Baird notes that children can have a difficult time adjusting to changes in their routine, but if that change is to do something they enjoy, such as going to a park or a pool, your child may be much more open to the idea. By starting small and focusing those first few outings on your child’s interests, this will help them become more open to the idea of going to other places in the community on future trips.
Talking to your child about where you will be going in advance and setting clear expectations will help alleviate anxiety about the outing. Tell your child about who you may see, what you’ll be doing and if it will be loud or quiet there. For instance, if you’re going to a grocery store, it may be helpful to tell your child about potential interactions with cashiers and employees behind the bakery or deli counters, as well as letting them know it may be loud in the store. Baird also recommends bringing reinforcers with you to reward their positive behavior throughout the trip. Whatever your child prefers – whether it’s snacks, toys, or tickles – be sure you have some of their favorites readily available.
Another key factor to help ensure a positive experience during outings is flexibility. It may be best to start with trips to places that don’t require a specific time commitment, in case you need to leave early. If the goal is to bring your child grocery shopping, Baird believes it may be beneficial to break it up into smaller stages. On the first trip, maybe don’t buy anything and just do a lap of the store so your child can get used to what it’s like. On the next trip, try buying a couple items and possibly interact with the self-checkout. Once your child gets used to how trips to the store go, you may be able to give them small tasks, like grabbing milk or cereal and putting it into the cart. By breaking the entire process down into smaller steps, it allows your child to get used to the process at a pace that won’t overwhelm them, which can in turn help them become more comfortable going to other new places.
The most important factor when going anywhere is safety. When you can be sure your child isn’t going to run through a parking lot or into the street, you can more comfortably focus your attention on the trip itself. Talk to your child about the differences between community helpers and strangers, and be sure to set clear expectations about what to do throughout the trip.
Finally, it’s important to remember that you can rely on your team at Gateway for help and collaboration. Our clinicians can create social stories that you and your child’s therapists can read to your child to help prepare them for outings, whether it’s a broad story about what going into the community may be like or something specific like going to the movies. Our team can even accompany you for outings to provide additional support.
Thanks for reading! We hope you found this helpful as the weather starts warming up and you begin planning for spring and summer. If your child is currently receiving services with us and you would like to discuss how to help prepare your child for community outings, please reach out to your child’s clinician to schedule a meeting and create a plan to best fit their strengths and needs. Be sure to follow us on social media to see what’s new at Gateway, and stay up-to-date on the latest blogs for more helpful tips and guides. Have a great day!