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Preparing Your Child With Autism For A Field Trip

By April 25, 2016 December 31st, 2018 No Comments

Field trips are a part of most school
programs and these are done at least once a year. Several common places that
are frequently visited during school field trips include science centres, zoos,
and aquarium. For most typical children, field trips can be a highlight of
their school term, as it serves as a reward and fun break from their usual
school routine. Nevertheless, for children on the autism spectrum, field trips
can be a nerve-wrecking experience and it may trigger higher anxiety levels in
them. In certain instances, children on the spectrum may display a tantrum
behaviour during the field trip and this may pose a challenge to their
families, friends and/or teachers.

Instead of hindering children on the autism
spectrum from attending a field trip with their friends, there are several ways
to prepare them for this event and support them during the field trip.

It is important to ensure that children with autism are set up to be
successful during the field trip, so that they can have a meaningful and
positive experience.

1. Firstly, analyse the elements of the child’s field trip, from the
bus ride to the things they will see during the field trip, and the friends/people
that will be going with them.

2. Secondly, determine the skills required for the child to be able to
participate in the field trip, and simplify it to their level of understanding.
Some pre-requisite skills would include listening to group instructions,
waiting, and staying with group.

3. Thirdly, practice these skills with your child in a safe and
structured environment. The more practice the child gets for a particular
skill, the more likely that skill would be strengthened.

4. Lastly, reward your child for good behaviour. It is important to
reward your child with autism when they demonstrate the target behaviour during
the role play as well as during the field trip. This reward component would
help to strengthen the emerging skills in your child with autism.

1.
Prepare

Before the children go for a field trip, it
is essential to prepare them in advance for this event. Once a date has been
set, this event should be plotted down in a calendar and shown to the child.
After each day has passed, cross out the previous day with the child. As the
day of the field trip draws nearer, you could start counting down the days with
your child.

In addition, you could utilise a Social
Story to clearly communicate to your child about the details for this event. A
social story depicts the event that is about to happen. It contains a script
and supplementary pictures to effectively communicate to the child, as most
children on the spectrum are visual learners. It is important to note that
social stories should be individualised to the child, according to the child’s
literacy and skill sets.

Another important thing to prepare your
child with autism for is the bus ride. Your child with autism may be familiar
with a toy bus or a picture of a bus, but the actual bus may cause stress or
anxiety. Hence, it is necessary to include the ‘bus ride’ element in the social
story as well. Additionally, you could take your child with autism on practice
runs, by taking them on a short bus ride on a public bus prior to the field
trip.

More details on how to write a social story
can be found here.

We have also written a social story you can
use for your child with autism, to prepare him/her to go on a field trip to
Farm In The City. You can download it here for free and print it out!

2.
Communicate

In addition to preparing your child with
autism for the field trip, it is also necessary for you to clearly communicate
to him/her about the schedule for the day, as well as the expectations while
they are on the field trip.

It is important that these rules and
expectations are established prior to the field trip. Additionally, some of
these rules may need to be practiced beforehand in a safe environment. One
example would be for the child to practice staying with an adult – parent or
teacher. This expectation could initially be taught to the child in the home
environment and paired with a reward, to strengthen the child’s ability to stay
with an adult. Thereafter it could be practiced outside of the home environment
in the porch or at a playground. During the field trip, when the child stays
with the adult for a period of time, the child could then receive a small
reward (e.g. sweet, chocolate or short time on the phone) to reward them for
staying with the adult.

Furthermore, it would be good to let the child
know about the flow of the day. You could tell the child about the different
activities they will be involved in, and write it down on a schedule so that
the child can refer to it throughout the field trip. This written/visual
schedule provides the child with predictability so that they know what to
expect next and it can also ease transitions from one activity to another.

3.
Occupy

Typically during a field trip, people are
expected to wait – waiting to get on the bus, sitting on the bus waiting to
arrive at the location, waiting in line to enter venue, etc, For children with
autism, waiting can be a challenge, and they might become restless or upset
during this process.

To help children with autism cope with the
process of waiting, one strategy is to keep them occupied while they are
waiting for the next activity. Do note however that you would have to consider
the social-appropriateness of the activities you provide to your child while
out on a field trip. Some activities to occupy your child with during a field trip
include books, small toys,
snacks and phone time (songs, games). Before transitioning to the next
activity, remember to give your child predictability and communicate to your
child what is happening next.

Additionally, your child might require
several short breaks during a field trip. Some children might require a short
break after each activity, while some could carry on for several activities
before requiring a break. These short breaks allow your child to regroup his
thoughts and regulate his energy levels.

4.
Affirm & Reward

It is necessary to affirm your child with
autism that he/she is doing the appropriate behaviour while out on a field
trip. Do reward them for staying with you, listening to instructions and for
coping well to the new environment. For example, you could reward your child
with a small treat if he/she stayed by your side or with the group throughout a
set duration or activity.

Show them how they can participate in an
activity and praise them when they do. For example, on a trip to Farm In The
City, first demonstrate to your child how to feed the fishes. Thereafter, give
your child his/her turn to feed the fishes as well. If your child participates,
praise him/her for participating and trying out a new activity.

We
hope this article and the free resources provided will help you. Check out
some of the highlights from our very own recent field trip to Farm In The City with the
kiddos!

For some of our kiddos, it was their first time getting onto a bus!
It was a sight to see the kiddos with their wide eyes filled with wander throughout the bus ride.
They learnt to stay with their friends at all times.
The kiddos formed new friendships and strengthened old ones too.
We saw ostriches, cows and goats!
We fed some tortoises…
And goats, too!
Even our team members had their own experience with the animals there.
The early learners got the opportunity to do some longkang (drain) fishing.
We concluded the trip with feeding fishes at the lake, before a quick break time and hopping back onto the bus.
Each child even got their very own certificate of attendance from the field trip!
And of course, a huge thumbs up to the team who made our first field trip a success. We are so thankful for a team so passionate, driven and loving in everything that they do.

 

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