Tips for Successful Community Participation
Those who take care of a loved one with special needs know that venturing out into new public spaces and venues during the summer may come with certain difficulties such as accessibility, unpredictability, behavioral needs and more. When faced with these challenges, consider that much growth and learning can be achieved by choosing to participate with your loved one. Community engagement provides opportunities to engage with others while building life skills that lead to enhanced independence for your child, youth and young adult with a disability. Here are some tips to help you ease into community spaces this summer:
- Do your homework! Familiarize yourself with the community environment before attending with your loved one. Consider how your child interacts in their familiar public spaces and apply the same modifications and adjustments that can carry over into this new and unfamiliar environment.
- Prepare your child for what’s ahead! Talk to your child using a visual schedule or social story to let them know what the place might look like, the interactions they may have, and the sights they may see.
- Know the needs of the child! Alert community workers about your child’s specific needs and see if there are any places that can be used as a calming space or sensory breaks.
- Pack for success! Use a checklist to pack essentials for your individual child: including medical supplies, familiar snacks, water and consider bringing a favorite toy or activity for when there is sensory overload.
- Give your child choices! Choices can help children feel more in control. Consider giving them an opportunity to be “in charge” of part of the activity so they feel more involved.
- Develop a plan! Make a plan ahead of time if problematic behavior occurs. This way if you all need to leave before the scheduled time, everyone with you knows the strategy and reasons for calling it a day.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself! Try not to worry about looks or concerns from others if your child is displaying problematic behaviors. The day may not work out exactly as planned, but always look for the small wins of the day!
Use these links to help you plan your next community outing this summer: