Nothing epitomizes summer more than a fun-filled day at the beach. The bright sun, cool waves, and sandy shores make for a perfect getaway. Even if you’re not close to an ocean, there are likely still beaches on rivers or lakes where you can splash in the water, lounge on your beach towel, and maybe even make a sand castle. Taking your child with behavioral issues to the beach may present its challenges, but there are plenty of ways to make the trip a great time for everyone.
Make Safety Paramount
One of the biggest risks of taking your child with behavioral issues out to the beach is the possibility of wandering. With wide open spaces and the potential for crowds, you will want to make sure you come prepared. An armband with your contact info and an explanation of your child’s diagnosis is a valuable item to have. You can also contact your local division of the Autism Society, one of many helpful community resource programs. They will be able to fill you in on all of the local EMS contact information and policies, as well as safety tips for specific coastal areas.
As with other outings, it is also a good idea to bring along trusted family members or friends who can be an extra set of eyes and ears to keep watch over your child. If your child enjoys swimming, be sure to bring a set of arm floaties, and be aware of areas that are susceptible to dangerous waves, especially at the ocean.
Be Intentional With Your Timing
The downside of the beach being such a fun outing is that it can draw crowds by the masses. However, these crowds are typically the densest during the midday hours. If you plan your beach trip earlier in the morning, or towards the evening, you can usually avoid noisy and rowdy crowds. Think of other fun activities you can do in town during the peak beach hours, such as going out for ice cream or going to an aquarium, either before or after you enjoy your time on the shore. If you can make it during the weekday, that will also help you avoid the crowds.
See What Autism Specific Programs Are Near You
Before you schedule your beach day, do some searching to if you can discover programs for children with autism near you. One such program is Surfers For Autism, a non-profit that hosts events where trained instructors offer free surfing lessons to people on the autism spectrum. The events also include a catered meal, live music, games, and other fun activities. The Autism Society of Oregon hosts Color the Coast for Autism, a fun-filled fundraiser at the coast that features a 5K fun-run/walk, lots of games, food, and more!
Don’t Forget Essential Items
Children with autism tend to have sensitivities to heat, so bringing items to help bring relief from the heat is a must. Having a good beach umbrella is a great way for your child to escape to the shade and cool down if they begin to feel overheated. Of course, taking a dip in the water is always a perfect way to cool down after soaking up the heat from the sun. Be sure to have plenty of water-resistant sunscreen to avoid a nasty sunburn. Sunscreen tends to be a sensory issue for children with autism, so you will likely need to prepare them in advance, perhaps by going through some practice runs beforehand. You can also find great plant based sunscreens such as Sun Bum’s Baby Bum line. Also, never underestimate how dehydrated you can become after swimming or playing in the sand, so bring a cooler with plenty of water.
The other advantage of coming prepared with other activities in mind is that your beach trip may not always turn out the way you had hoped, and that’s okay. It may just be a bad day for your child to try to have fun on the beach due to a number of factors. If this happens, go with the flow! Take a look at your list of alternative ideas and move on to another activity that will make your family day of fun a success.
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