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Aspergers Children and Amusement Parks: Avoiding Over-Stimulation

Amusement parks and recreational theme parks can quickly propel the Aspergers youngster into total overload if you, the parent, are not careful.

Your youngster may have enthusiastically anticipated the trip, but no youngster deliberately seeks the public embarrassment and humiliation of a meltdown near the exit to the roller-coaster ride because of improper planning or pacing. This “behavioral” communication (i.e., meltdown) is a last resort when all else has failed.

Going to the Amusement Park: 25 Tips for Parents—

1. At first, start slow with gentle rides, paying careful attention for signs of over-stimulation.

2. After each ride, process the experience with your youngster to gather his impressions and tolerance level. Some children absolutely relish the sensory feedback they derive from seemingly violent, whirling, spinning, upside-down-turning rides – but some don’t, and after the ride is over, they may flip into a full-blown meltdown.

3. Allow your youngster to record the highlights of your activities with a camcorder, with your youngster directing the “movie” and providing the narration, of course.

4. Appoint your youngster the responsibility of taking photographs to share with family and friends. Disposable cameras make this easy and inexpensive, even if you are also using a camera of your own.

5. At some point during the day, know that your Aspie may need the total solitude offered by a nap or reading time in the hotel room.

6. Be aware that many amusement rides feature flashing and spinning lights that may vary in intensity or kick up in intensity once the ride starts. The concern here is that this constant “strobe light” flickering may induce a meltdown in those Aspies who are overly-sensitive to visual stimuli.

7. Before arriving at the park, play visual memory games about the surroundings, review the day's written agenda, and discuss what you anticipate may be experienced on the rides.

8. Consider museums. Museum may provide a calmer, slower-paced atmosphere that your youngster may find conducive to becoming absorbed in the subject matter.

9. Consider purchasing an “easy pass” or “fast pass” offered for some attractions. Learn about the rules and premium costs involved to access such a system. The passes may be available only at certain times for certain rides, which may cause you and your youngster to rearrange your schedule.

10. Create a “schedule-of-events” with your youngster before arriving at the park.

11. Engage your youngster in assisting you to prepare for attending a theme park by researching all the details (e.g., how far, mode of travel, where to stay, how much, etc.).

12. Ensure that your Aspergers youngster is clear in understanding the written rules about the ride (e.g., keeping arms and hands inside, staying seated, etc.).

13. Have a quiet lunch somewhere in order to give your child a break from the environmental stimuli (e.g., noise, congestion, etc.).

14. If the theme park is located in an area with other “spin-off” type activities and amusements on a smaller scale, consider attending one of those instead of the park.

15. If there is a way to link any of the theme park activities to one of your youngster's passions, do it! For example, if your youngster is interested in monkeys, then the nearest zoo might be a better option over some other attraction.

16. If you feel anxious about how you would feel riding a certain ride, it's probably a good measuring tool to deny your youngster admittance. As a guide, many amusement parks offer brochures that are coded to indicate appropriate age levels.

17. If your youngster becomes easily distracted by noise — especially unpredictable noises like train whistles, buzzers and bells, or other loud sounds emanating from rides — wearing an iPod and listening to favorite music will be a good survival tool.

18. In addition to scheduling downtime, it may be best to pace the sequence of activities (e.g., riding a roller coaster followed by attending the dolphin show, then on to an exhibit display before tackling another fast-paced ride).

19. Know that riding certain rides can look tempting and exciting — until you're a passenger!!! Take the time to carefully observe any ride you are considering with your youngster prior to boarding. The thrill of most amusement rides is based on surprise, fear, and strong centrifugal force. The extreme emotional and physical stimulation may be too much for your Aspergers youngster to endure.

20. Make sure that your youngster (a) is hydrated with cold drinks throughout the day, (b) wears sun-block (and a hat, if tolerated), and (c) stays as comfortable as possible while waiting in very warm conditions. He may not know to express his growing discomfort or may be oblivious to it entirely.

21. Many theme parks offer a faster, alternate line for children with disabilities to quickly board rides and other amusements. Selecting this alternative may be ‘stigmatizing’ for your Aspergers youngster, however many moms and dads with Aspergers kids swear by this convenience.

22. Stick to the schedule to the very best of your ability and pay attention to your youngster for any signs that the vacation is wearing thin on him, which he may not be communicating.

23. Theme parks are notorious for large crowds and long lines. You know your youngster best and have a sense of his endurance and tolerance thresholds. Build in breaks and downtime throughout the day.

24. Waiting in line can be a frustrating exercise in patience for many children. The Aspergers youngster may not immediately understand why it's necessary to wait in line. It may be helpful to prepare a written story, in advance of the trip, to review with your youngster before and during long waits in line (include details about what to do and how to conduct oneself while waiting).

25. Weigh whether you think an amusement park vacation is appropriate for your youngster in the context of your family makeup.

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns

2 comments:

JEP said...

In reference to Item No. 21, I happen to use this one with my son on several occasions who is a high functioning aspie. However, he can not tolerate long lines because of the wait time (over an hour). He has never felt stigmatized nor has he recognized feeling different. He remains pretty much in-tune to himself at the moment and doesn't care what others think of him. I think most aspies are this way, i.e. into self. If anything, he probably feels pretty special that he gets through faster than everyone else and is pretty proud of himself and doesn't care how he does it. He has one mission in mind - get on the ride and get on it as fast as possible.

Anonymous said...

You can get a special needs pass that is like paying for a fast pass or other type of line skipping pass. This has really helped us and hope it helps others too. Just go to your guest services or customer service desk upon entry to the park or ask when you are paying for your pass for a special needs pass and they will direct you.

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the Aspergers child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually. Thus, the best treatment for Aspergers children and teens is, without a doubt, “social skills training.”

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How to Prevent Meltdowns in Aspergers Children

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and the Asperger’s child are totally exhausted. But...

Don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

If your child suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome, expect him to experience both minor and major meltdowns over incidents that are part of daily life. He may have a major meltdown over a very small incident, or may experience a minor meltdown over something that is major. There is no way of telling how he is going to react about certain situations. However, there are many ways to help your child learn to control his emotions.

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Parenting Defiant Aspergers Teens

Although Aspergers is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager with Aspergers are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the Aspergers teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

The standard disciplinary techniques that are recommended for “typical” teenagers do not take into account the many issues facing a child with a neurological disorder. Violent rages, self-injury, isolation-seeking tendencies and communication problems that arise due to auditory and sensory issues are just some of the behaviors that parents of teens with Aspergers will have to learn to control.

Parents need to come up with a consistent disciplinary plan ahead of time, and then present a united front and continually review their strategies for potential changes and improvements as the Aspergers teen develops and matures.

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Aspergers Children “Block-Out” Their Emotions

Parenting children with Aspergers can be a daunting task. In layman’s terms, Aspergers is a developmental disability that affects the way children develop and understand the world around them, and is directly linked to their senses and sensory processing. This means they often use certain behaviors to block out their emotions or response to pain.

Although they may vary slightly from person to person, children with Aspergers tend to have similar symptoms, the main ones being:

=> A need to know when everything is happening in order not to feel completely overwhelmed
=> A rigid insistence on routine (where any change can cause an emotional and physiological meltdown)
=> Difficulties with social functioning, particularly in the rough and tumble of a school environment
=> Obsessive interests, with a focus on one subject to the exclusion of all others
=> Sensory issues, where they are oversensitive to bright light, loud sounds and unpleasant smells
=> Social isolation and struggles to make friends due to a lack of empathy, and an inability to pick up on or understand social graces and cues (such as stopping talking and allowing others to speak)

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Older Teens and Young Adult Children With Aspergers Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent?

Parents of teens with Aspergers face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

Parents face issues such as college preparation, vocational training, teaching independent living, and providing lifetime financial support for their child, if necessary. Meanwhile, their immature Aspergers teenager is often indifferent – and even hostile – to these concerns.

As you were raising your child, you imagined how he would be when he grew up. Maybe you envisioned him going to college, learning a skilled traded, getting a good job, or beginning his own family. But now that (once clear) vision may be dashed. You may be grieving the loss of the child you wish you had.

If you have an older teenager with Aspergers who has no clue where he is going in life, or if you have an “adult-child” with Aspergers still living at home (in his early 20s or beyond), here are the steps you will need to take in order to foster the development of self-reliance in this child.

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