School is out, the sun is shining, and your child is ready to enjoy a summer filled with fun. It can often feel like a challenge for parents of children with ASD to keep them busy with activities at home, and with trips outside the house. If you’re still looking for outdoor items to add to your summer activities schedule for your child with autism, consider adding routine trips to your local zoo.
Taking your child with autism to a public setting with lots of people may sound intimidating. However, the zoo is a unique experience that tends to be better suited for children with autism compared to a theme park or crowded mall. There is an intentional lack of stimulating sounds at the zoo in order to create a better environment for the animals, which in turn tends to keep the crowds quieter themselves.
Children on the autism spectrum greatly benefit from being around animals. Animals are a comforting presence and can reduce stress and anxiety. If you take your child to the zoo, try to make it to the bird sanctuary section. These sections are often very tranquil, and the natural sounds of the birds can be both calming and fascinating. Making it over to a petting zoo section is a great way for your child to have firsthand interactions with animals.
The zoo is also a great place for fun-filled education. While your child is enjoying the exhibits, they will also have opportunities to learn cool facts about various species, learn about different regions of the world, and gain an understanding of biology. You may find that taking trips to the zoo sparks a special area of interest that your child will be excited to learn more about.
A day of walking around the zoo also provides some beneficial exposure to the outdoors and physical activity - without feeling like a chore.
You can often find discounts or free passes for children with special needs at many zoos, so do your research ahead of time to see what your child qualifies for. The Autism Society also will partner with local zoos to create programs just for children on the autism spectrum. These programs include day camps, sensory sensitive days at the zoo, social stories specifically for the zoo, and educational tours by specially trained staff.
If a zoo is near you, consider doing some research or contacting a representative to see exactly what they have to offer. You may find your local zoo to be the missing piece to your perfect fun-filled summer.
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