Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Taking our autistic kids to a wedding

Boy at wedding

Some friends of ours are getting married soon.  I'm so pleased for them.  Unfortunately we couldn't attend the wedding due to other commitments, but if we were going there's always the question... do we take the kids?  Some invites are pretty clear if kiddies are included, some couples have children of their own that are going too.  But weddings are big things and this can be challenging for autistic kids like ours.

If you're your autistic child is going to be part of, or going to a wedding soon, you may be wondering the same thing.  Weddings, however, may present a challenge for some young people living with autism. Here are some of the things we thought about:

Autistic kids can worry at big occasions  

David can sometime be quite routine bound and there is nothing routine about weddings. Autistic kids may be worried when the wedding deviates them from their routine. Things like dressing up, travelling to an unknown venue and lots of new people can be disruptive and could cause distress. Some autistic children may not enjoy the event and may want to leave.

If possible, we would try to include familiar things. So, for instance, if you have a young autistic child, it's worth bringing a calming toy or their favourite snacks with them so that they have something that they recognise in the new environment. If it's your wedding you'll be able to think about what your child will eat and work it into your day. Again, having something familiar is likely to reduce anxiety levels and help the child cope with what can be a disruptive experience.

Our eldest Anthony would understand about changes to the day and although he'd rather be playing on his Playstation, he would go along with the event.  At a wedding, he would be more worried that he was going to do something wrong that doesn't fit in with the order of proceedings.   We can help him by showing him where the wedding or event is taking place before hand. We can explain the order of the day and what's going to happen when.  This can also be done in very simple pictorials for kids that work best with visuals.

We can also highlight to Anthony what he can look forward to or we will help him with during the day. Anthony will struggle to sit still and quiet so we support him with this.  However both he and David can enjoy some types of entertainment.  The Alive Network, for instance, offers a variety of performers, doing everything from singing to magic shows. Finding out what's happening at an occasion can help us prepare our kids.

Sensory challenges

Although our kids may enjoy the music, there's always the possibility that the whole event will get a bit too much for them.   If possible we look around to see if there's somewhere we can go when they need a break.  It could be an annex room, a corridor or an outside space, but somewhere that they can get away from whatever is going on.

We will do out best to choose clothes that are as 'ordinary' for them as possible so they don't feel uncomfortable.  We may even have practiced wearing them several times before the big day.

Although an overload is more likely, we can also have the opposite challenge, when the kids become sensory seeking.  Having a fidget toy or a lap weight can help kids when they need to sit for a period of time. We will do our best to squeeze them and keep them calm but we may need to head for that break out area for a run around, swing or jump too.

Autistic kids might feel isolated

Many autistic kids like their own company, but in a large unfamiliar environment they need support more than at other times.   Neither David or Anthony would be interested in mingling with other guests and would be best left to watch their iPad, phone or dance like a rock star with us when they wanted to.

However, I know some autistic children who would like to be involved in the party, they just struggle with the social communication skills.  Weddings, therefore, could be an isolating experience. Rather than being a time to network and meet up with old friends and family members, it could be a stressful experience.

Finding out what other kids are going to an event can help.  Sometimes knowing one person can be enough to help a child join in with play or dancing.   My eldest can feel more at ease just by knowing people's names and what they look like in advance.  I still have to be near him, but it can give him the opportunity to engage if he wants to.  We can also rehearse small scripts so he has a few appropriate things to say.  When he gets a positive response he feels better about himself.

Weddings and other special events can be challenging for many autistic children, but we are always willing to see what we can do to help our kids join in where they want to.

Have you got any ideas?

7 comments:

  1. Good post. So many things to think about that we often don't. #KCACOLS

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  2. Thanks for the tips, the last wedding we went to thankfully we had a babysitter (granny & grandad) so we got to have an adult evening. However for family weddings or close friends these tips will come in very useful. #KCACOLS

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  3. Some great tips. :)
    I don't have much experience with Autism, but I do have an online friend who has 2 children with Autism and a "work" collegue who's grand daughter has it.
    I'll share your post for them to have a look at. :)

    #KCACOLS

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  4. I bet this will be so helpful to parents with autistic kids! Thank you for linking with #KCACOLS! x

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  5. Fantastic post as always. I really do love how you are educating people. Next time I plan an event I will definitely take into account these points #KCACOLS

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  6. Great insight into how taking autistic kids to a wedding would be a bit challenging. I can only remember going to one wedding as a kid and it was an event I'll never forget. When we plan weddings in the future, I'll definitely keep these things in mind. Thank you for sharing this with us. #KCACOLS

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  7. Such a helpful posts. Weddings can be such an overwhelming day, but especially with autism. Some useful things here to remember #KCACOLS

    ReplyDelete

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