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  • Felicia Ford

The Fear of Public Outings

There was a question posed in an autism support group on Facebook, "who's afraid to take their child with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) in public?" My first thought was, "wow how sad!" Then I realized I was once that mom too.

Having 3 small boys with autism has not been easy. Public outings were extremely tough for me and my husband but we soldiered on and got through it.

As a parent of children with autism, you must be patient with yourself and your child. Meltdowns will happen, it's inevitable. When we shop and a meltdown happens, I try to breathe, relax and keep shopping. I speak to my child in a soft sympathetic tone about how I understand how hard it is not to get the toy (usually a dinosaur), how it's ok to be mad or sad, and everything will be ok so don't cry.

I would love to say it works and my child calms down. Well it doesn't always work on my child but it does work to keep me calm. I don't get embarrassed by the outburst. If I notice others looks usually they are kind, you're doing great mom, looks.

Meltdowns happen until they don't. All children have them and it's no big deal. As parents of special needs children, we tend to be extra sensitive to perceived and sometimes real disapproving stares. The reality is if we get over the embarrassment and focus on our child and the current teachable moment nothing else matters.

Our children will get better at handling public outings. The more you do it, the easier it gets. Try to take a favorite toy with them as a distraction and for comfort. Your child will learn appropriate behavior as well as your expectations.

If you can, get ABA (applied behavioral analysis) therapy to work on the difficult behaviors. My then 2 year old twins, who were runners, had to be taught to walk holding hands by their therapists. If your therapist can go on public outings that helps tremendously. We went to MLB baseball games with our therapist to get the boys to sit in the seats.

So to the question of do I fear of public outings, the answer is no. We just take each one as it comes. I even take all 3 boys shopping by myself. However, I always strap them in a cart to keep them immobile and safe. They can't learn appropriate behavior if we don't keep trying.

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