Autism-Friendly Eating Out Tips

Archive for the ‘Coping Skills’ Category

Autism-Friendly Eating Out Tips

Posted on: December 7th, 2016 by Autism Therapy Group

Eating out should always be an escape, an enjoyable, relaxing experience, but when you’re going out to eat with your kids, things don’t always go as planned. If your family has a member on the autism spectrum, these challenges may keep you at home, feeling too overwhelmed to take on the whole endeavor.


But it doesn’t have to be that way, and every family deserves to enjoy a nice outing where you share laughs over delicious food (that you don’t have to cook or clean – bonus!).  Here are some tips you can try to embrace going out to eat with the whole family.


  1. Prepare before your outing:

  3. food-plate

Those with autism thrive on schedules and predictability, so springing a restaurant trip out of the blue may be a trigger for your child. Instead, plan and prepare ahead of time by talking about the plans, going over questions and answers such as:


  • Where are you going and why?
  • When are you going there? What day, what time, how much longer?
  • Who is going with you?
  • Has your child been to this restaurant before?
  • Will there be a waiting period? If so, where will you wait and how long will that be? What activities can you do while you’re waiting? Are reservations available?
  • Review the menu online with your child – what foods sound good to them?
  • Is there a special event you’re celebrating?


  1. Role play:

  3. tables

There are several YouTube videos specifically for children and children with autism role playing different situations like going out to eat. You can watch these videos with your child and practice role playing with your family at home.


Simulate the restaurant experience, including the following: walking in the doors, checking in with the host, waiting, choosing seats, meeting the server, being given a menu, looking at choices and making up your mind, ordering and speaking to the server (or asking mom or dad to help), talking with the guests, etc.


You can also read books or point out on TV shows when families are eating out, talking about their behavior and steps in the whole process.


  1. Create a visual schedule:

  3. schedule

To coincide with your planning and preparing ahead phase, you can also create a visual schedule that will remind your child in an easy way the steps in going out to eat. Create the visual supports with your child so he or she is involved in the experience from start to finish. Some steps to consider including:


  • Driving or other transportation to the restaurant
  • Who will be there with your group
  • Waiting to be seated
  • Who else will be there at the restaurant (other guests, hostess, servers)
  • Menu and ordering food
  • Communicating with family while waiting for food
  • Table manners
  • Paying and leaving the restaurant

You can make this by hand or use an online visual tool kit or organizer to create something on the computer.
With proper planning and practicing, your family can enjoy a nice trip out to a restaurant. Don’t let fear get in the way – the more you try, the more you will learn, and if an obstacle arises, don’t let it throw you off track. Use it as a learning experience for how you can modify your plan and trip for the next time around.


How do you prepare for restaurant outings with your family?

Enjoying the Holiday Season with Your Special Needs Child

Posted on: December 7th, 2016 by Autism Therapy Group

The holidays are often a stressful time for adults, filled with party engagements, shopping, spending, cooking, cleaning, and lots of preparations. As the parent of a child with special needs, sometimes the holidays can bring an extra stress, with movies, television, and commercials showing supposed “normal” families smiling and laughing through their holiday traditions.


But what if your family looks and feels different? What if your family doesn’t fit that cookie cutter mold (and whose does, actually?). You might feel sad that your family doesn’t match those picture perfect ones on TV; then you might feel guilty that you feel this way and ultimately you may feel alone, like you’re the only one feeling this way.


Shouldn’t the season be filled with love, peace, joy, and enjoying simple family moments? You don’t have to just survive this season – you deserve to embrace it! Check out these 3 tips to maximize the special time with your special needs child and your family in general.


  1. Lose the guilt:

  3. How can you say yes to a cocktail party and leave your special needs child at home? How can you have a carefree night out filled with laughter when you have far more serious, pressing issues on your plate? Just because you’re the parent of a child with special needs does not mean you don’t get to enjoy time away from home.

When you take time to take care of yourself, you’ll actually be a better spouse, friend, and of course, parent. So say ‘yes’ – having time away from home with your family and friends and allowing yourself to let loose a bit will help you emotionally, mentally, and physically, giving you the recharge you need to be the best parent you can to your children.


  1. Take on what you can:

  3. At the same time, you don’t have to say yes to every invitation and engagement; spreading yourself too thin or putting yourself in social situations that you’re uncomfortable with never end well. Don’t worry about what your family or friends will think about you saying no – ultimately you have to decide what is best for you and your family.

Think about activities, events, and locations that will make you and your child feel happy – isn’t that what it’s all about? Surround yourself with supportive people who will add to your experience and make your child feel comfortable. Don’t use your child as an excuse to shut yourself away or to isolate yourself, but find a happy balance of fun, engaging activities, even a small get together at home, and pushing yourself to try new, safe activities to get out in public.


  1. You’re not alone:

  3. You may feel like the only family who is different, but guess what? You are not alone. In fact, there are other families in your very own community who are feeling the same way, so why not reach out to those who will understand you most?

The holidays are a trying time for anyone, with financial burdens causing stress and having a general feeling of being spread too thin. You’re not alone. Connect with others online or through community groups to bridge the isolated gap, have your feelings validated, and unite with like-minded people.


There’s plenty of time to take back the holiday season, and not only ‘get through’ it, but to truly embrace it, as an individual and for your whole family.  How do you welcome the holiday season? How do you manage difficult, stressful times?

Practicing Social Skills with Your Child

Posted on: November 14th, 2016 by Autism Therapy Group


Understanding social cues and having appropriate social skills is incredibly important yet challenging for those with special needs. Just like with any skill, practice makes perfect – check our list of activities you can practice with your child to enhance his or her awareness of social cues and allow your child to run through these actions in a safe and supportive environment.

Not only will practicing these skills be a bonding experience with your child, but it will show him or her that you care while boosting confidence.
Interpreting emotions

No matter where your child goes – home, school, the cafeteria, playground, soccer field, or out at the mall – it’s imperative to be able to pick up on emotions and understand them correctly. By understanding emotional faces and body language, your child will be able to appropriately respond to various social situations.

A simple way to work on emotions if to make a face or show body language associated with a certain feeling; then have your child imitate you. You can start off with something silly and goofy to keep the mood light and fun.


Understanding idioms

Picking up on idioms can be challenging for children, and for those on the autism spectrum, idioms are downright confusing. To help your child understand the difference between a literal statement and an idiom and to understand what those idioms mean, try some activities with them.


  • Books:

  • Take a trip your library and check out books on idioms. Try this list for a great, fun way to teach idioms from The Best Children’s Book site.
  • books


Eye contact

Establishing solid eye contact creates interest in conversation and shows confidence. Try these activities to practice strong and appropriate eye contact.

  • Sticker on the forehead:

  • This idea comes from Children Succeed. Put a sticker in the middle of your forehead (you can use a sticker of eyes if you want!) and encourage your child to look at the sticker during conversation. Many people find direct eye contact intimidating, so this is a great stepping stone to train them to look in the right direction in a less threatening way.
  • eye-contact


  • Staring contest:

    When practicing social skills, why not make a game or contest out of it? Have a friendly staring contest with your child, or if he or she is competitive, it could turn into a serious competition! Let the games begin.

How do you practice social skills with your child? What activities or strategies work for you?

Autism Coping Skills for Parents

Posted on: October 14th, 2016 by Autism Therapy Group


As a parent of a child with autism, only you can understand the unique dynamics, obstacles, joys, and struggles that occur on a daily and nightly basis, but don’t worry, even though it may feel like it at times, you are not alone. Thousands of other families are handling similar situations, and the great news? There are coping skills you can use during those trying moments.

  1. Avoid the internet:
    What’s the first thing people turn to in times of need, desperation, or questioning? The internet, of course. It’s an endless resource, literally available at your very fingertips any time of the night or day.

Put your phone down. Turn the computer off. Stay off the internet.
What may start as good intention will turn into an endless black hole of “information,” leading you in hundreds of different directions, often spiraling out of control. What you need in your times of need is calm. What you need is security. The internet can be a wonderful resource but can also be your worst enemy.

When you feel the need to Google your dilemma, write it down in a journal, call a friend, turn to a book, and wait to call your doctor.

  1. Network:
    While you should trust your doctor and therapists for medical advice, sometimes the best and most comforting support you will receive is from other parents who have been there. This is where the internet can actually be a useful tool – use it to network with parents of children with autism and start building relationships.

Remember, you may feel alone, but you are not alone. Connecting with other families will assure you of this, and you can lean on one another for support, share your triumphs, and offer to listen through those bad days.

A word of caution and advice? While online groups, including social media networks, can be an excellent source of support, you should be prepared to brush off unsolicited advice. Weed through any negativity and focus on those positive relationships.

  1. Give yourself grace:
    Through the good and challenging days, doctor office waiting rooms, and waiting for school meetings, your responsibilities go on and on. Don’t forget to give yourself allowances for you Taking care of yourself is not selfish; in fact, you will be the best help to your child if you first take care of yourself. Get into a habit of making “me time” every day, even as little as 20 minutes; whether it’s reading before bed, getting in a quick workout, or finding a peaceful moment to reflect and journal, find what makes you happy and make sure to remember your needs.

  1. Not every day is a win:
    Finding what works for your child is an ongoing process; you will inevitably try things that work and run into strategies that do not work, and that’s okay. Not every day needs to a win to be considered a success. Focus on the positives, no matter how small, and learn from the trials. There are treatments and therapies that will work for your child; you may have to go through various methods before you find the right one, but it is out there.

  1. Ask for help:
    Parents have a notion that they need to take on the world, especially parents of children with special needs. But guess what – you’re human! If you’re having a hard day, you don’t have to just grin in bear it. If you need to cry and talk about it to a spouse or friend, do it – don’t hold the weight in and keep it all to yourself.

Remember: you will best be able to care for your child if you take care of yourself first. This means asking for help – doctors, partners, friends, neighbors, your child’s school – they are all part of your support system, so ask for help before you feel completely and utterly overwhelmed.

What coping strategies have worked for you? Are you a member of any online support groups or social network sites for parents of children with autism? Are you guilty of becoming a doctor of Google? Share your experiences so we can cultivate a community.