Sanity Savers for Enjoying An Outing with A Neurodiverse Child

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.

This kid is not T but he might as well be.

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.

A trip to Canada’s Wonderland is not complete without funnel cake at the end of the day!

Avoid Comparisons

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.

Watching hypnotizing jellyfish at Ripley’s Aquarium.

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?

We made it to the wedding, despite the meltdown. T looked adorable in his tiny dress shirt!

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.

19 thoughts on “Sanity Savers for Enjoying An Outing with A Neurodiverse Child

    1. Thank you! Many nuggets of wisdom learned the hard way. 😆 They have indoor parkour lessons for kids that look safe but I hear you on the more extreme form of parkour. Hope you and your brother are doing well in Israel!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. It’s good that you set a limit as to when you need to intervene because I think as T grows older he may remember this. As long as he’s not into other people’s personal space, or isn’t doing anything harmful, then it’s okay. I think I need to tell my mom about neurodiverse kids, because she’s often quick to judge children who she considers unruly.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Bama for being an advocate. I can understand where your mom is coming from – and I grew up in the Philippines and with Asian parents too, so I get it. If I hadn’t met T, I would never even understood what neurodiversity means. It’s really a fine balance between explaining the behaviours as a result of a disability and as a kid being just a brat (because he can be too). Keeps us on our toes as parents. 😆 Hope you’re enjoying your week. You’re a few hours closer to the weekend than I am over here!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I couldn’t help but laugh at the kid at the airport and of T climbing the sign at the Bluffs. Isn’t it amazing how strong kids are though? There’s no way I could climb up something like that! My nephew is actually taking parkour lessons and apparently it’s been a good way for him to focus his energy and tire him out. A survival bag is always key to any outing, especially when the traffic is terrible. I’m such a fan of positive reinforcement. Besides, the rewards aren’t just for T! It’s nice to treat yourself as well! P.S. What a great family photo!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Linda. T is gonna be that kid in the airport next time we go out on a flight. 😆 Good to hear about your nephew. It’s amazing how they have these opportunities for kids these days. How fun and pragmatic!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You guys … are just so amazing!!! I think that T will someday understand that he had the very best parents he could possibly have had to help him through the trials and tribulations of his early years! You guys get two 👍👍 from me!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Jill! I hope so too. It certainly isn’t easy but the rewards, joy, fun and laughs are worth every effort and struggle. 😊 Your thumbs up are also encouraging and appreciated!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Diane. He climbed up halfway on a flag pole yesterday too. Jeez. Lol. We will find safer outlets for me to burn off that restless energy. We’re also thinking indoor rock climbing. 🙂

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  4. Love these sanity savers – brilliant and wise. What never ceases to amaze me about my 7-year-old is that the older she gets, the more she moves. I actually had to tell her not to put her shoes on someone else’s wall recently when she was climbing the walls on vacation. 🙂 A sense of humor helps for sure!!! Love the journey that you are on — and that you share it with us, Ab!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Oh my goodness! My mom i think has a photo of me climbing our basketball pole. I had and still do amazing upper body strength like T. I loved climbing. You hsmmshould have him try indoor rock climbing or outdoor! I LOVE IT! ALL THOSE SENSES GET PLAYED WITH! I look forward to reading your posts. And does T have a turquoise bow tie. Love it!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Rebecca! You will have to share that photo with your readers. 😊 I can just picture it in my head as you seem to me like a grown up version of T. Thanks for following along his journey and for being someone with lived FASD experience whom I can converse with!

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