Some people joke their restless kids are “climbing the walls.” Kids like our T actually climb them.
I’ve seen memes of this boy climbing a pillar in an airport (below) many times on social media.
I empathize with this kindred spirit. Even though it’s never disclosed why this kid was climbing, I infer and understand how a restless impulsive ADHD/FASD mind can respond to a stimulus-rich environment.
During a recent outing with friends to the Bluffs, the hubby and I wondered where T had gone.
There he was!
Aside from his incredible upper body strength – I want to start him in parkour lessons – T never stops moving, climbing, jumping.
While it can make for tiring outings, we have lots of fun together.
Here are a few sanity saving tips the hubby and I have picked up on how to enjoy an outing with a neurodiverse child.
Preparation is Key
We give T a heads up about our plans, sometimes showing photos or videos of what to expect. Social stories can work for other kids too.
We don’t pack too much into our day, because at some point, kids crash – and that’s when tantrums can happen for T.
We pack a survival bag: snacks and water – avoiding sugary stuff like juice boxes – and extra underwear/pants, sunscreen, hats, etc.
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
You gotta pick and choose your battles – or you’re gonna lose your shit.
When we went to the amusement park with T’s cousin last month, T was the one kid in the long rollercoaster rides standing and moving on the railings. I remember a bewildered mom staring at him.
The way I look at it: if he’s not getting in people’s space or at risk of hurting himself or others, I’m not gonna sweat it.
Oh look, here’s T climbing a tree – one of many – during our downtown outing with his visiting Aunt and cousin A – while waiting for ice cream.
Be the Calm
We are fortunate that most outings are fine, but boy, do things get harried when he has a tantrum or meltdown.
These moments test even those with nerves of steel.
It sounds easier said than done, but it’s all about deescalating. The lecturing, debriefs etc. can wait until after the storm has passed.
Reward and Incentive
We give T something to look forward to at the end – ice cream, funnel cake (below), etc. – because it can be used as motivation throughout the outing.
Yes, I’m not above bribing my child. 😂
If T does earn the reward, we pair it with praise and positive reinforcement.
It’s tempting to compare your child with others – like at a restaurant when every child is sitting still and T is hopping on seats like a frog or crawling under tables.
But I stopped comparing nor caring, because I know what makes T exhibit his behaviours.
If a parent ever called me out, I’d tell them to count their blessings their child do not have the daily struggles that T does.
Find Activities They Enjoy
When T’s cousin came to town, we took them to the museum and Ripley’s Aquarium (below).
As expected, T zipped through both places, so I never got to immerse myself as much as I would’ve liked.
But there were moments that had his sustained attention – like the dinosaur exhibit or the jellyfish tank (below).
And that is the key: finding things they enjoy and build on them. Like camping, swimming, hiking.
When kids like T are engaged in something they enjoy, that’s when magic happens and positive memories are created.
Build in Rest Time
We try to build in quiet time at home at the end of our outings for ourselves.
We all need to decompress. This means I’m sitting in my room quietly and the hubby is watching TV – and if T is looking at a screen, so be it.
We try not to pack our weekends and limit outings – especially with others – so there’s lots of time to just our family and for individual downtime.
Have A Sense of Humour
As I always say, it’s best to find a way to laugh – even at how crazy the FASD journey can be – because the alternative is to cry.
In 2017, the first time we travelled out of Canada with T, who was just under 2, we flew to Miami to attend a friend’s wedding (below).
T had a massive meltdown at the airport checkin line. It was likely due to lack of sleep as we were up very early and it was noisy and bright.
The hubby and I started to panic. Thankfully, a sympathetic staff rushed us to the front of the line and we skipped a 45-minute wait.
When the hubby and I got over the embarrassment, we joked that next time we should see what else we could milk from a meltdown.
Maybe get bumped up to first class? Or at least an extra bag of peanuts?
At the end of the day, every child is different and what works for T may require a different approach for another – and vice versa.
The hubby, T and I have lots of fun together. They make the extra preparation and occasional tantrum or meltdown worth it.
We build memories, because childhood – and summers and life itself – is so short.
Once the outing and meltdowns have long passed, the excitement, fun, laughter and happiness are what remain.