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Amusement Park Precautions for Aspergers and SID Children

Dear Mark,

I can't tell you how much I appreciate your newsletter! It really encourages me and gives much-needed guidance. Our daughter is six years old and has sensory integration dysfunction. While she has never been diagnosed with Asperger's, she has many of the symptoms, so I find your articles extremely helpful. We have had to pull her out of the public schools and are homeschooling her for 1st grade. She is doing much better. Her OT says that she is like a different child this year.

Anyway, here is my question. My husband and I have been planning a trip to Disney World for our daughter for her 7th birthday. She has been begging to go for the last few years, but we have put it off not knowing if she could handle it. She is doing better with loud noises, crowds, etc....but I'm not sure she can handle the sensory overload of DW. She has an incredible imagination and loves fairies, princesses, etc.....I know she wants to do it, but I'm not sure she is ready. And then again, if it's an "on" day while we're there, she might be fine. It's an awful lot of money to spend if we get there and she can't do it......ugghhhh. I'd appreciate your thoughts.


Should you attempt the trip? Yes.

Here are some tips that apply to Aspergers children, although the same would apply to children with Sensory Integration Dysfunction (SID):

1. A gift of a journal or sketchbook is helpful and can provide a good outlet for frustrations and other emotions, as well as a way to make a permanent record of the trip. The records of the trip that your daughter makes may well become a treasure in years to come.

2. Bring a few of your daughter’s favorite items from home (e.g., a particular spoon, plate, clock, etc.). Familiarity, texture and feel are important to children with Aspergers. For example, a fork with sharp edges or an unfamiliar feeling handle may bother her.

3. Bring her pillow and favorite blanket from home. This will help your daughter adjust to changes in sleeping arrangements. She may insist on favorite toys as well. She should be allowed to bring books or other reading material, or anything else she is used to having at bedtime that is portable and light.

4. Bring whatever instruments, song books, stories, or games you have traditionally used to help her unwind.

5. Explain everything you possibly can in advance, with details. Being prepared fully helps your daughter relax and enjoy the trip more, which means you will, too.

6. Give her a bag or small backpack to pack full of things to do on the trip. These items should be ones she chooses herself.

7. In the car, allow your daughter to bring an iPod or MP3 player with her favorite music on it. Listening to familiar music is soothing and will have a calming effect on her.

8. Keep it simple. Don't plan 25 things to do in one day. Add in extra adjustment time for each change of location.

9. To the extent possible, keep the same schedule and meals that your daughter is used to at home. Save the Chinese restaurant for later, and remember to bring her favorite cereal, sandwich fixings, and snacks.

10. Allow for frequent ‘time-outs’ (about 10 minutes in length) during the day’s events. For example, find a fairly quite area with a picnic table and have a snack or read to her.

11. She may want to wear earplugs or listen to soothing music on her iPod during the day’s events to screen out unfamiliar sounds.

12. Sunglasses are also helpful in that they screen out some of the unnecessary visual stimuli.

In addition, consider your daughter’s specific symptoms and make allowances accordingly. Here is a summary of SID symptoms:

• Symptoms of Auditory Dysfunction:

Hypersensitive-- Covers ears and startled by loud sounds, distracted by sounds not noticed by others, fearful of toilets flushing, hairdryers and/or vacuums, resists going to loud public places (even cafeteria at school).

Hyposensitive-- May not respond to verbal cues, loves loud music and making noise, may appear confused about where a sound is coming from, may say "what?" frequently.

• Symptoms of Olfactory Dysfunction:

Hypersensitive-- Bothered or nauseated by cooking, bathroom and/or perfume smells, may refuse to go places because of the way it smells, chooses foods based on smell, notices smells not normally noticed by others.

Hyposensitive-- May not notice unpleasant or noxious odors, smells everything when first introduced to it, may not be able to identify smells from scratch 'n sniff stickers.

• Symptoms of Oral Dysfunction:

Hypersensitive-- Picky eater with extreme food preferences and limited repertoire, may gag on textured food, difficulty with sucking, chewing, and swallowing, extremely fearful of the dentist, dislikes toothpaste and brushing teeth.

Hyposensitive-- May lick, taste or chew on inedible objects, loves intensely flavored foods, may drool excessively, frequently chews on pens, pencils, or shirt.

• Symptoms of Proprioceptive Dysfunction:

Under-responsive-- Constantly jumping, crashing, and stomping, loves to be squished and bear hugs, prefers tight clothing, loves rough-housing, and may be aggressive with other kids.

Over-responsive-- Difficulty understanding where body is in relation to other objects, appears clumsy, bumps into things often, moves in a stiff and/or uncoordinated way.

Difficulty Regulating Input-- Doesn't know how hard to push on an object, misjudges the weight of an object, breaks objects often and rips paper when erasing pencil marks.

• Symptoms of Tactile Dysfunction:

Hypersensitive-- Refuses or resists messy play, resists cuddling and light touch, dislikes kisses, rough clothes or seams in socks, resists baths, showers, or going to the beach.

Hyposensitive-- Doesn't realize hands or face are dirty, touches everything and anything constantly, may be self-abusive, plays rough with peers, doesn't seem to feel pain (may even enjoy it!)

• Symptoms of Vestibular Dysfunction:

Hypersensitive-- Avoids playground and moving equipment, fearful of heights, dislikes being tipped upside down, often afraid of falling, walking on uneven surfaces, and avoids rapid, sudden or rotating movements.

Hyposensitive-- Craves any possible movement experience, especially fast or spinning, never seems to sit still, is a thrill seeker, and shakes leg while sitting, loves being tossed in the air, never seems to get dizzy, full of excessive energy.

• Symptoms of Visual Dysfunction:

Hypersensitive-- Irritated by sunlight or bright lights, easily distracted by visual stimuli, avoids eye contact, may become over aroused in brightly colored rooms.

Hyposensitive-- Difficulty controlling eye movements and tracking objects, mixes up similar letters, focuses on little details in a picture and misses the whole, loses his place frequently when reading or copying from the blackboard.

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns


Anonymous said...

• My child, who is 8 yrs old now and has SID, had a lot of sensory issues back at that age too. He hasn't ever been on a plane before so I can't give you any advice on that but the Walt Disney part I can say that he would most likely love it. I think with the sensory issues seem to be (at least with my child) more so when he is in an enclosed place, such as in the house. When he's outside I think he feels free and therefore more able to enjoy things. Inside my child still gets the same way occasionally if there is a lot of noise in a room he will run off to another room but I have never ever seen him not enjoy anything that was outdoors. EVER! Enjoy your trip, he's going to have a blast.......I hope this will help you a little.

Anonymous said...

• Hi, we took a group of kids with SID to Disney including our twin girls, it was so much fun! You could make a story book of the parks you are going to visit, explain the rides with words and pictures (icons) like dark, scary, loud, fun, fast, slow etc.. Take a pair of ear muffs to help with noise. Try to get pictures of the hotel, they might send you something you can make a story out of this also. Do the same for the airplane, take snacks and things your child likes to do, Let the airline know that your child has SID they are usually willing to go the extra mile for you if need be. If you want more info, let me know. I hope I helped.

Anonymous said...

• I know it's not the same thing, but why don't you do a "dry run" taking him to a local fair or amusement park where there are some smaller rides and lots of people and you have to wait in line. See how he does in a smaller setting and prepare him this way. I take my child to a small amusement park in SWPA and he loves it. He has gotten used to the environment and he can't wait for the summer to get here. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

I don’t know about Disney World but I did take my 3 year old child on a plane trip and he LOVED it. He is very into all things transport as many SID children are so flying on a real plane was a huge treat.

Anonymous said...

My child can't handle walking in the front doors of Wal-Mart! We tried a Halloween party and he screamed and bashed.

Anonymous said...

• We have taken our child every year since he was 4 (now 16) and he loves it... We did have trouble with the fireworks (ear plugs are good to have on hand) and some of the more intense rides we have pictures of him with hands over ears and head down. Even with some of the sensory overload he gets right back in line to go again. Build in some down time in the middle of the day to go back to the room and relax or hit the pool, Also my child has his Game Boy and a portable DVD player for the plane ride. Have a great trip; Disney has a magical effect on our children.

Anonymous said...

• We take our child every year to Disney… Kevin (my child) likes to be in quiet places during get togethers. It can get overwhelming at the parks but at his age I'm sure he will love it, (if it gets to be too much you can always find a quiet little area to go chill out for a while. Make sure you go to "guest services" and tell them about your child, they will give you a handicap pass for your family. You go on the rides through the handicap entrance, makes it so much easier for the little guys patience. Have a great time!!

Anonymous said...

• We took our ASPERGERS child when he was 8. Even though he had gotten better the fireworks still really bothered him. He would hide his head and cover his ears! He was really excited by the rides, but didn't want to go on even the most gentle roller coaster type of ride. I think you'll just have to gauge how he continues to progress and react to sensory issues. I really appreciated all the "shows" to give him down time. We also had lots of help with my parents and my brother and his fiancĂ©e it made a big difference.

Anonymous said...

• We've been taking our children to Disneyland in S. California since our child Isaac’s (now almost 6) third birthday. 2-3 times per year. It seems to be the only crowded, public place where he really comes alive. He just absolutely loves it. I think it might be because he recognizes everything there and that makes him feel safe. Honestly, by the end of the day he is truly spent, and a little over-stimulated, but well worth all the laughs and smiles during the day. One word of caution: keep your child away from anything that might be scary. Isaac was terrified by the Snow White ride (go figure). Be sure to pack a backpack with his favorite things that will comfort him, if needed. The advice about "guest services" and the handicap pass is genius. I'll have to try that next time. We have just been dividing up the family so that Isaac is doing something else while a member of the family waits in the line, then we all "cut" close to the front. Not good for making friends. Have fun.

Anonymous said...

Wow this is a great resource.. I’m enjoying it.. good article

caravan parks perth said...

Never leave your child alone if you're in a park. Crime rates like kidnapping is happening wherever we are.

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

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the ASD 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.

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Children on the Spectrum

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 or HFA child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and your 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.

Click here for the full article...

Parenting Defiant Teens on the Spectrum

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

Click here to read the full article…

Older Teens and Young Adult Children with ASD 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 ASD 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."

Click here to read the full article…

Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

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Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

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