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5 Tips for Finding Activities for Your Child

When my son with autism was in elementary school, I remember wanting to get him involved in “programs” and “activities” but not really knowing what was appropriate or how to proceed. I recall contacting tons of people and agencies and asking for “THE” programs and activities specific for a child with autism. Frequently when the call ended, I didn’t have any suggestions for appropriate activities for my son. Over time, and with plenty of trial and error, I figured out that I needed to be more specific with my request. Below are five tips to help you in finding activities for your child with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

  1. Be clear about what you want the program/service to address for your child or family.
    • Is it respite (a break) for the family?
    • Skill development for the child with ASD?
    • Pure leisure time for the person with ASD? If so, then consider what your child likes to do in their free time.
    • Professional treatment for the individual with ASD? If so, then it might be a great time to review the recommendation section of the most recent professional assessment of your child.
    • Some other reason?
  2. Explore the program/service.
    • Visit the program, ideally when others are being served, but at the very least, look at the space where the service would be provided.
    • Talk with the staff about your child.
    • Talk to other families who have been served and get their feedback.
    • If the program seems like it might be a good fit, then have your child visit. Does your child feel comfortable with the people and the program?
  3. After investigating the program, ask yourself some questions.
    • Can the program and staff meet your child’s needs the way it is currently set up?
      1. Is the ratio of staff to child sufficient?
      2. Is the communication system in place adequate?
      3. Can the staff manage behavioral issues that may arise?
      4. Does your child require a crisis plan or behavioral plan? Some children may need a step-by-step plan for managing behaviors.
      5. If it is a group activity, then evaluate whether other children have behavioral issues, do you feel that there are enough safeguards in place that your child will be safe?
    • If you like the program but not all of your child’s needs can be met, then consider the following out-of-the-box ideas:
      1. Is the staff open to modifications or accommodations?
      2. Could the staff provide the modifications and accommodations themselves?
      3. Would the family need to provide the modifications and accommodations?
      4. What could some of the modifications and accommodations be?
        • Have someone accompany the person with ASD (either parent or staff).
        • Create visual supports.
        • Use a behavior plan.
        • Identify a safe place should the individual need to have time away from a group.
        • Create a written schedule so your child knows what to expect.
        • Use task analyses. (Examples http://rethinkrethink.com/blog/2017/05/05/techniques-teaching-complex-skills-children-special-needs/)
        • If you have no idea which accommodations or modifications are appropriate for your child, then review the most recent professional assessment for a list of the recommendations.
  4. Be clear about finances.
    • Is the program free or is there a fee?
    • Does insurance cover it?
    • Is there another way to fund the program? This is a great question to ask the director of the specific activity.
  5. Investigate ways your family might be affected by involvement in the program.
    • Commitment to a certain number of hours per week
    • Drive time to and from the activity
    • When your child is being served, do you need to be right there, do you drop off and go, or do you sit in a waiting area?
    • Will there be more time commitment on your end than just the service/activity, such as for paperwork, input on written plans, meetings, or homework or follow-up at home?

 

Learn more

ASNC Autism Resource Specialists around the state are available to help you connect with local resources. Find yours on our website.

The ASNC Bookstore recommends the following related books:

 

Nancy LaCross, an ASNC Autism Resource Specialist in the Raleigh area, can be contacted at nlacross@autismsociety-nc.org or 919-865-5093.

 

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