Going on Family Days Out!
Over the years we have worked very hard to have positive experiences as a family, including days out. Over time, with trial and error, we have come to realise the things that Alex does like (e.g. trains and being outside, but not wandering aimlessly around) and does not like (e.g. castles or museums) and we plan around that. For example, last summer we went to Devon, choosing a place to stay that had a lot of outside space. Whilst there, we went to a garden with a railway, the South Devon Railway, to the seaside, and to Stonehenge.
Part of the preparation is researching what places are like in advance. What is there going to be for Alex to do and can he cope with it? So we choose to go to places where we know we will have something to enjoy and that will not cause him stress. Or we choose somewhere with space where we know he may find it OK with our support. We do not always show Alex pictures of places we are going (he might not really understand, as he has very complex learning and language and communication disorders) but we do say one word prompts for him, like “train”, “seaside”, “lunch”, and use the “first and next” planning, to explain the order in which we are going to do things.
We also have to think about lunch as he eats only a limited range of food – do we eat first, and go in the afternoon, or bring some food and hope to get drinks and other refreshments there? We sometimes have to use lunch or the promise of an ice-cream as a motivator. We also make sure that Alex is settled first before we might decide to break into two groups, as we did on some of these visits. The days were not always sunny which was fine as it meant places were slightly less busy.
Top tips: Ignore people who may stare or comment (Alex does not understand which helps). We have a car now, which helps with accessibility. If you don’t have a car you can still do things like go for a walk outside or go to the local park, or to an autism-friendly showing at the local cinema. You could also try to find an inclusive swimming club where all the children can go. We did this for Alex (they provided one-to-one support) and his siblings went too at the same time. With support, over 7 years, he learned to swim 400m on his own. We are very proud of him.
Mary, Alex's mother