The aquarium can be a fun and educational place for children and families to visit. Most families enjoy taking trips to the aquarium during the weekends or school holidays, and schools may also organise field trips to the aquarium.
Nonetheless, going to new and unfamiliar places can be potentially challenging for children with autism. Furthermore, the aquarium can be dark and crowded during peak hours, which could trigger anxiety in children with autism.
Here at EAP, we will be taking our kiddos on a field trip to our local aquarium, Aquaria KLCC, and we would like to share some tips and resources that could help your child with autism have a successful trip to the aquarium.
SET YOUR CHILD UP TO BE SUCCESSFUL
There are several considerations to take note of before going to the aquarium. We recommend identifying potential challenges, and planning for the trip thoroughly.
1. Identify potential challenges. We would suggest finding out if your child has any sensitivities to environmental factors in the aquarium, such as:
- Crowded places
- Certain sounds/noises
2. Plan the visit to the aquarium. We would suggest taking your child with autism during non-peak hours/seasons, particularly if your child with autism finds it challenging to tolerate crowds. Additionally, when going to the aquarium during non-peak hours, your child would also like have a better opportunity to experience each attraction to its fullest.
3. Expose your child to the aquarium and sea creatures. We would suggest exposing and teaching your child the various sea animals that they may see at the aquarium. By doing so, you could help to build your child’s interest in the topic and create anticipation for the trip. Here are several activities you could do with your child:
- Reading a story about the aquarium or sea creatures
- Watching videos or songs
- Doing arts and crafts activities (e.g. making a shark hat)
- Incorporating sea animals into games (e.g. ‘Pin The Fin On The Shark’)
PREPARING YOUR CHILD
It would be important to communicate to your child with autism about the upcoming trip to the aquarium. This would provide your child with predictability of what they could see or expect while at the aquarium as well as the rules/expectations during the trip.
1. Prepare a social story and read it to your child in advance. Do include information like where they are going, when they are going and with whom, what they will see, as well as the agenda/schedule for the trip.
2. Prepare a visual schedule for the trip. You may prepare a picture-based schedule or written schedule, depending on your child’s skill sets. Show this to your child before and during the trip.
3. Have a reinforcement system. Communicate the rules and expectations to your child, and pair them with reinforcement (rewards). For instance, if your child follows the rules/expectations during the trip, he can be rewarded with a gift/toy from the souvenir shop at the end, or, ice cream, depending on what your child finds reinforcing.
We have written a social story that you can use, to prepare your child with autism for a trip to the aquarium. You can download it HERE for free and print it out!
HAVE A BACKUP PLAN
In the event that the trip to the aquarium does not go as planned, it would be beneficial to have a backup plan for your child.
1. Identify a space, room, or area where your child is able to go to, to calm down. An ideal space could be one that is brighter, quieter and less crowded.
2. Bring along some simple activities that your child can easily be redirected to (e.g. books, colouring activities). These activities may also come in handy when you need to keep your child occupied during waiting times.
The above ideas are some of the basic guidelines to help assist your family in preparing your child for a successful trip to the aquarium. As each child with autism is different, these suggestions will need to be individualized to further meet the different requirements of each child.
We wish you the very best in taking a successful family photoshoot! Please do not hesitate to contact us at 03-20940421 or at firstname.lastname@example.org should you need anymore assistance.