1. Plan and prepare for your outing!
Children with anxiety do best with predictability where there are few surprises. Review websites, download maps, and create a daily itinerary!

2. Visit during less busy travel times!
Visit places when there are fewer people and less chaos. This is often at the opening and closing times or early in the morning and later in the afternoon. Then, gradually, adjust the time to travel during more crowded hours.

3. Bring a friend or a sibling!
Children with SM do best when they are not the primary focus of attention. Plus, bringing a friend or sibling helps with distraction, lowering anxiety!

4. Sit on the outskirts of the crowds rather in the middle of the crowd.

Ideally, choose the same location over and over!

5. Props work wonders!
Props, such as toys, floats, and games are ideal for distracting your child from anxiety. Use objects and games as tools to engage your child in question-asking and answering too!

6. Awareness to sensory challenges.

For children with SM, sensory overload can trigger defensive behaviors where the child may shut down, avoid, or become minimally engaged and communicative OR, dysregulated where they behaviorally act out. Therefore, be aware of noise levels, overwhelming sights, and overcrowded situations.
*For children who are sensitive to foods, remember to also bring your child’s favorite foods in case options are limited.
*For children who have difficulty using public toilets. Here are some tips:

  • Locate a single restroom rather than a multi-stalled restroom. This may mean parents need to speak to the manager on duty for special privileges.
  • For younger children, carry portable potty seats. This may help soothe any fear of using adult-sized toilets.
  • For children who fear the loud noise of the toilet flushing, desensitize them to the noise by going in and flushing multiple times. For some children, wearing headphones helps as well!


7. Facilitate interaction and communication.
Often, parents and others expect a child to just jump in and participate. Many children with SM need help engaging, getting comfortable and communicating in unfamiliar settings and people. Help facilitate social communication by prompting social engagement (Frontline & Handover/Takeover), leading water games/activities, using pre-written scripts at the snack bars and/or asking choice questions rather than thought-provoking questions when facilitating communication with others. (I.e., “Do you want chocolate or vanilla ice cream?” vs, “what flavor do you want?”)

8. Awareness and implementation of social communication strategies based on the child’s baseline stage of social communication!
With every social encounter there are opportunities to engage, interact and communicate, hence, purposeful exposures!

  • Use the simple strategies of Frontline and Handover/Takeover. Some examples include prompting your child to receive towels or other items from pool staff, hand money to the waiter at the snack bar, or share toys with other peers. These strategies work wonders to fuel progress for the minimally communicative child.
  • As the child becomes comfortable and more communicative, prompting the transitional stage of communication (Stage 1Stage 2) Taping messages on a tape recorder, using the parents or siblings or buddies as Verbal Intermediaries when asking for the correct number of towels, providing a name upon admission to the park or asking for a soda at the snack bar
  • Read or initiate preplanned scripts as the child is entering into the verbal stage of communication.

9. Be aware of ‘fears’ and trying new activities.

As excited as we are to go to water parks, new beaches or do ‘fun’ activities, for many of our children, they are cautious to new or less familiar activities. For example, going down slides, going into the ocean or going on an amusement ride. Be aware of potential fears/worries ahead of time and perhaps adapt the activities that allow your child to participate and feel successful.

10. Awareness to select individuals who try to force speech and communication. Ideally, educate others. With family friends or relatives who join you, share ‘About My Child.’ Call and discuss the matter via phone or in person when your child is not present.

Summer is ideal for extended family time and for planning SM exposures to not only build comfort but to help with progression of communication into speech. Consult with your treatment professional regarding individualized child and parenting goals to understand what and how to implement key strategies specific to your child’s needs.  And, remember to have fun and enjoy the process along the way!