Summer is in full swing, which means school is out and playdates are in! For families with children with autism, playdates can feel intimidating (Will my kiddo have a meltdown?), but with a little careful planning, we can help make play time with friends successful and rewarding. When done right, playdates are a great opportunity to practice social skills in a supported, fun environment. And as a parent, nothing feels better than watching your child successfully engage with their peers!
Preparing for a Playdate for your Child with Autism
Here are some tips and advice to help you and your child with special needs prepare for and enjoy a successful playdate!
Choose the Right Location
There are two schools of thought on where and how to set up a great playdate for kiddos with special needs. One idea is to set up a one-on-one play date, hosted at your own home so that your child is most comfortable. You can work with your child to put away toys that they don’t want to share and select toys that they’re better at playing with with others.
Alternately, you may choose a more neutral location where neither child is likely to feel as attached to toys. If it feels like less pressure on your kiddo, you can include a small group of kids – and if you need to leave abruptly, it’s all the easier.
You know your child best – choose a location that will set your child up for success.
Practice Possible Scenarios
As with so many things in life, practice is key! Discuss the rules ahead of time (especially if you’ll be in someone else’s home), and help your kiddo find and use the right words for how they’re feeling. Role playing possible scenarios (such as introductions, how to share a toy, and what to do if your child is feeling overwhelmed) is a great way to help prepare your child and build confidence.
The same tools you use for daily activities—such as visual cues and social stories—can you’re your child prepare for and transition throughout a playdate.
Keep It Short and Sweet
It’s fun to play with friends, but it can feel taxing for a child with special needs, too. Start with shorter playdates and build up to longer stretches, if your kiddo is interested. And plan ahead for what you’ll do in case of a meltdown. While playdates are a great opportunity to practice social skills, fun and enjoyment are primary goals, too!
As you and your child navigate new social interactions, we’re here to help! At Innovative Behavior Options, we offer Applied Behavior Analysis therapy (ABA therapy) to help kids with Autism and other special needs improve independence. To learn more about our approach to ABA therapy and the services we offer, give us a call at 770-250-0093.