Special Needs

Ten Mardi Gras Tips for Parents of Children With Autism

February 3, 2020

“Celebrate the small successes.”

With Mardi Gras quickly approaching, attending parades can provide challenges for parents of children with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental delays. Provided by Touchstone ABA, here are ten tips for how parents can prepare for Carnival season:

1. Attending parades can be stressful for any family, so it’s crucial to plan ahead. To the best of your ability, find a parking place and area where you’ll be standing ahead of time to avoid last-minute uncertainties or confusion.

2. If your child has difficulties with changes in his schedule, give him a heads-up about the upcoming parade by using a calendar to mark the days until the parade.

3. Help your child know what to expect by reading a book about parades, watching parades on TV or the internet, or make your own story with computer pictures and simple words.

4. Set expectations by communicating the plan with the entire family ahead of time. Outline the timeline and rules that need to be followed while at the parades. Some children benefit by having a written or picture sequence of parade day events to use as a checklist.

5. Pack the necessities. Though there are parades going on, your child might not be interested in them. Pack favorite snacks, toys, puzzles, books, and games or other preferred activities during the parade.

6. Since parades tend to last a long time, bring a chair or wagon so your child can sit and rest. Know your child’s limits and your own. A successful 20-minute parade experience is much more memorable and enjoyable than a longer one that ended in distress.

Crowds and Other Sensory-Affecting Situations
7. If noise is a trigger for your child, bring noise cancelling headphones or earplugs for when the marching bands play.

8. Since some children with autism can impulsively bolt from a safe setting to explore something of interest or remove themselves from a situation they find stressful, be aware of your child’s wandering triggers.

Knowing When It’s Time to Leave
9. Always have an exit strategy ready to go and practice it. Look for parking that allows easy access and/or a quiet place nearby to retreat to if needed. For your first parade, plan to stay a shorter time and leave before any problem behaviors occur.

10. The most important tip: reinforce desired behaviors your child exhibits throughout the planning, preparation, and parade experience; notice and be lavish with your praise and attention when your child is doing well. Celebrate the small successes.

Touchstone ABA provides applied behavior analysis services for children, families, schools, businesses, and organizations. ABA is a research-driven therapy for individuals with autism spectrum disorder and other learning differences or behavioral concerns.

For more on ABA, read our “Applied Behavioral Analysis: A Family’s Journey” feature from April 2019.

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