Taking a child with autism to an amusement park can be a very scary thought, but it could also be a lot of fun! Yes, there is a lot of potential for sensory overload, but there is also a lot of potential for sensory output which can be very good. We recently took our 10 year old to a big, outdoor amusement park for the first time and had no issues. I think, it's because we were properly prepared.
Here are some great tips on how to prepare for autism and amusement parks.
1. Check with the amusement park that you plan on visiting and see if they have any special guidelines or practices in place for people with special needs or ASD. Our local amusement park, Valleyfair in Shakopee, MN, has made a lot of efforts to make their ASD guests feel very comfortable.
2. Prepare your child, as well as you can, for the noise, excitement and amount of people who will be there. If possible, print out a park map beforehand and mark out safe-meeting places and places to find help if you get separated. Let your child get to know the layout of the park on paper.
3. When you arrive at the amusement park, take a picture of your child/children with your cellphone, so you will have a current and accurate photo of exactly how they look and what they are wearing that day. (For non-verbal children: make sure they have a card with a name or contact info on it, so someone can help them, if need be.)
4. Point out various staff members and/or safe people who your child, if able, can go to for help. Perhaps, if they know before hand, it will help them in a scary moment.
5. Have plenty of snacks, liquids and comfort items on-hand. Also, make sure to keep an eye out for quiet, calm spots. You never know when those will come in handy.
6. Have fun, but don't force. Start off with movements that your child is comfortable with and let them decide when they are ready to try something else.
7. Move slow and relax. If you get frazzled, they get frazzled, we all get frazzled and then, we have meltdowns.
8. For kids with sensory issues, always pack ear plugs, goggles, a towel and a change of clothes. Most amusement parks say no headphones, but the squishy ear plugs seem to be fine.
9. Take breaks. Eat. Find a room with AC. Find a grassy area. Take breaks.
10. All trips have their good moments and their not so good moments. Take more of the good moments home with you and leave the not so good moments behind.