Thursday, April 7, 2011

14 Points To Ponder When Taking Autism Spectrum Kids on an Outing

Hello Aspierations Friends,

It's Spring Break here in Vancouver, Washington and with our two sons home from middle school and preschool, it has been quite a balancing act keeping them entertained and safe while still running our online business, Count Your Beans Dolls & Bears from home.

We didn't do any overnight getaways this year but we still wanted the boys to have a fun time so we planned a movie theater trip for Tuesday to see Wimpy Kid 2: Rodrick Rules. Since the schools across the state border in Oregon are NOT on Spring Break this week, we knew that the movie theaters would be relatively empty during the early part of the day and so we hit an 11:00 a.m. matinee and shared the theater with one other family. SWEET! This allowed Ryan the ability to roam around within the theater as much as he liked (which was a lot) and for the rest of us to enjoy the movie with very few distractions.  Planning ahead allowed for everyone to have a great time.

Today we went to the Vancouver Mall, which might not seem like a big thrill unless you're a shopping kinda person or a teenager BUT the Vancouver Mall has this big trampoline jumping apparatus where kids can be strapped into the harness and jump to their heart's content.  For $9.00, it's much less expensive than taking the kids to physical therapy and it's a crazy amount of fun.  I'll share pictures tomorrow.

For now, I would to introduce a special guest blogger to my blog today, my husband and partner in parenting, John Krejcha.

John wrote an amazing blog yesterday in support of Autism Awareness month.  He normally posts at his blog "Life and Times of John Krejcha" but as his blog covers a wide variety of topics and isn't primarily autism / Asperger's themed, some of his writing doesn't get as much viewing and coverage as it really ought to.

I am reposting with John's permission his blog from April 6th, 2011.  The original title was "After Today's Haircut - 14 Things to Think About" because it was written after John took the boys to get a haircut and John had some excellent reflections upon the outing.

I rechanged the title for purposes of this blog to "14 Points To Ponder When Taking Autism Spectrum Kids on an Outing" because many of the tips that John gives are applicable to a wide variety of situations such as taking a child to a doctor's appointment, grocery story, meeting, amusement park, church, another family's home, etc.

We hope you enjoy and find this useful!

Here is John's Blog in its entirety!

After Today's Haircut - 14 Things to Think About

Welcome to Wednesday and I hope that all is going well for you this mid week day.  We are half way through spring break and both Mom and Dad are still sane. I will keep you posted on our progress on how we survive.

Tonight is Survivor and the Merge. Either Matt or Sarita will be going back into the game so it will be a good evening. I am also making spaghetti for dinner and everybody is looking forward to that. 

Today I took my life in my own hands and took both Ryan and Justin to get haircuts for all three.  I know it was going to be tricky since I would be getting my hair done as well and it was a good example of how things as simple as getting haircuts with Kiddos on the Autism Spectrum can turn ugly even when you think you are prepared.  It was a good learning experience for all so we were able to turn this challenge into a learning tool. The trick is, will the things learned be able to be used next time? Here is some food for thought for those who have kiddos on the Spectrum. These are mine that came up today in a span of 1 hour.

Number 1 : For kiddos on the Autism Spectrum in general, it is good to give them enough time to prepare for anything outside anything that is normal. 

Knowing this and my Kiddos, I let them know on Tuesday that I would be taking both of them to get a haircut the next day.  One was very happy and could not wait until the next day and the other complained and had to voice his concern and disapproval of the idea, which I listened to and then gave a rational explanation of why he needed a haircut which led to the number 2. 

Number 2 : Many people on the Autism Spectrum will need a reason why things are happening.  They don’t respond very well to “Just because” or “I told you so”.  This will give them a rational reason why things are happening and they can then process the information. 

I know that many people growing up were in families where the parents used the “I told you so” and “I am your parent and that is what I told you to do”.  Karen (an Aspie) and I made the choice to parent by having an open door when it came to most instructions when it has come to being parents.  We have let Justin and Ryan know that if they have a question about our decisions that they have a chance to ask us why.  This has worked out well for Justin for the most part and if he has a question, he can ask us why.  This allows him to process the information and he also knows that once we give the reason that despite any objections, it is still the end decision. 

So Wednesday morning comes along and both boys are up; I again let them know that we would be getting haircuts today and let them know the schedule for the day (Number 3). 

Number 3: Order and schedules are very important to many on the Autism Spectrum.  Having order will help those keep order within their minds. This helps them process things and helps prevent the times when they feel overloaded and can’t function (meltdown or shutdown). 

I did let them know that I had added two extra stops after the haircut. One would be to Coldstone to get some ice cream to reward them for good behavior (Number 4) and that we would need to stop at the store to pick up a few things for dinner. 

Number 4: Sometimes a reward (carrot) can go a long way to helping overcome situations that they may not want to be in and help them think through actions before they act out of place.  This is not a bribe for good behavior, just an incentive to take care in their actions and it was Spring Break and they could earn a treat.
So after I was done with the shipping for Count Your Beans (our business), we left for the haircuts. We took the iPad for Ryan and a Wimpy Kid book for Justin (Number 5) for the time in case we had to wait. 

Number 5:  Like a good Boy Scout, Be Prepared. Have things to occupy the time in case you may have to wait. Having things that your child likes (cars, books, a dinosaur, etc..) will be just one more trick in your bag to help prevent a bad situation. 

So we get to the Super Cuts and it was empty except for one person who was having their haircut. I did know that it was not busy because I had called ahead to see what the wait was like (Number 6).

Number 6: If you can prepare yourself and know the situation ahead of time the best way you can, it will help you prepare for Number 4.  Shopping off hours, not taking kids out shopping the day after Thanksgiving, knowing the pool will be packed when it is 100 degrees outside are simple ones. A quick call ahead of time on some unknowns is a good simple thing to make your life better. 

The person greeted us and said we they would be right with us.  By the time I got my coat off, Ryan needed to use the restroom (not a shocker if you have read any older blogs) so we took care of that.  When we got back they were ready for me and as Ryan returned to where his brother was, Justin was on the iPad that we had brought for Ryan. An argument started between the two of them because they both wanted to use the iPad.  I asked Justin to read his book since we had brought the iPad for Ryan, and he refused. The only other customer in the place had just finished and they had already started in on my haircut.

Number 7: Even the best laid out plans can fail. Try to have a back-up plan if plan A or plan B or Plan C fails. I know that in many cases that is not possible but having backup plans are good. 

In this case I did not have a back-up plan but I was lucky in the fact that they were going to call one of the boys.  They called Ryan, who had asked to go last in the car and the three of us agreed that Justin would go before Ryan (see numbers 1, 3 and 5 from above). So I asked if Justin could go first and they said no problem. They called Justin and he refused to go. He said, “No, I want to go last”. Ryan then yelled, “No I am going to go last”. It seemed like they went back and forth for hours (my reality) but in all reality, it was only a few minutes. They both refused to budge. To say the least I was embarrassed (relieved nobody else was in the shop) and I have to say I was getting upset. 

I asked the person cutting my hair to stop a moment and told them that one of them needed to go or they would both have things taken away. I had a mini meltdown myself which leads me to number 8. 

Number 8: Stay in control, don't lose your cool. This is much easier said than in practice many times. Show a good model of behavior and keep your cool.  Your kiddos will model what you do many times so if you can stay in control in front of them, this will help them in the long run. Later you may have to do a good primal scream in the pillow but leave that for in private. 

Justin knew that I was not messing around and then took off his coat and went and sat down in the chair next to me.  During Justin’s cut, he was having issues following the stylist's directions and I told him the longer he did not listen the longer it was going to take. I did also let the stylist know that Justin had Aspergers (Number 9).  

Number 9: When it is needed, inform people that are working with your child about your child’s Autism. I don’t think you need to tell every single person in the world but when it affects your child and can help somebody better serve your child it should be considered, for your child’s sake and privacy as discretely as possible.

She finished with Justin pretty quickly and I still had some trimming to do and a wash as the lady started in on Ryan. Ryan was so excited to get his haircut and sits so quietly and still. He really loves this and he did a great job when his haircut was being done. 

While I was getting my hair washed done, both boys were running from the front of the store to the back by the restrooms and when I mean running, I mean running. Of course I told them to stop which they finally did.
I finished and paid (with a healthy tip for both), this brings us to number 10.

Number 10: Learn from your mistakes and failed plans for success in the future. 

In the future I will get my haircut done separately at a different time (like when they are in school or at camp). Taking both boys could have been better if I would have had one go at a time and would have been there to be with the other one. Learn and grow from setbacks. 

After we left, I was upset to say the least. I don’t think I had seen the boys be so wild and disruptive in public (if I think hard enough I am sure I will come up with something).  I told them that we were NOT going to get the Coldstone because of behavior that had just transpired.  I told them that they did not keep their side of the agreement and thus would not be getting the treat. 

Number 11: Don’t provide rewards when they are not deserved. It will send a message that no matter what behavior they do they will still get the reward in the end.  

We got to the grocery store and I did not say too much even as the little one was very upset and NOT pleased about not getting the ice cream. He did calm down before we got to the store. 

In the store, my oldest came up to me and gave me a great big Hug and said, “Dad I am so sorry about what happened and I know I did not act very well.” This gives us Number 12.

Number 12: If given time to process, many times our sons will come up with what is right.  Justin had a processing issue this past week in Scouts that caused a pretty big private meltdown and with a bit of time was able to take it all in and then re-join the group and continue on. In this case it seemed like both boys were feeding off each other (energy wise) and caused them both to be out of control. Justin is old enough to process it after some time and was able to see that his behavior was out of control and not proper. Ryan is still working this skill but it will take some time.

After that, we started talking as we continued to shop. Justin looked at me and said, “is there any way we can earn the Coldstone back.” I looked at him, smiled and say “ya, we will figure something out for another time". 

Number 13: Keep the door open and keep on giving chances. I guess that this one could just be a general rule for any parent. Karen and I believe in forgiveness and giving chances. We have two wonderful and outstanding boys and we see greatness in them.  

When I asked Ryan if he had anything to say, he said “I did not do anything wrong, I was good when I had my haircut”.  I told him that he was outstanding during the haircut portion but had issues before and after. 

Number 14: Work is always ongoing. Sometimes depending on your child’s age and the ability, it will take them lot of repetition and lots and lots of work and in the end that still might not be enough.  What will count in the end is your Love and Support. 

So in the end, we turned a big negative into a positive and despite that hardship at the time, I chalk this one up as a win. We will see how Thursday might look for that ice cream.

Traveling the Road Less Traveled but it is starting to get crowded. 
Hug A Hippo
This is Karen again!  I hope you liked John's guest blog!  I know I did! If you would like to give us feedback in the comments section below, we welcome your input.  You can post anonymously if you'd like!  We always respect the privacy of our visitors. 

Also, if you have any other tips to add, we're always open to new insight! When people in the community contribute, there are benefits for many!

Tomorrow morning our family is participating in a special fishing event for kids with special needs in Vancouver. Justin has fished once and Ryan has never fished so this is going to be interesting!  

I'll blog again tomorrow!
Thanks for stopping by,
Karen & my guest blogger, John


  1. Hello Karen. My name is Katreena and I just found out alittle while ago that after being misdiagnoised and mismedicated for over 5years, that my 15 year old son, Dominick, has Aspergers Syndrome! I have no clue about it and half of it seems so Greek to me! Any help you could provide would be GREATLY appriated! I just dont know where to turn to first! What to do or how to find the info I need to better help my son! Any ideas on how or where to begin digging? Thank you sooo much! Look forward to hearing from you soon! My email address is:

  2. Hi Katreena,
    Thanks so much for your heartfelt email. I wanted to give you a well thought out response and that would take too long here on the blog so I wrote directly to your email earlier this evening. The email would have come from

    I hope the information I provided helps! It can be very overwhelming but please know that you and Dominick are not alone and that there are others of us with Asperger's that are traveling the journey and more than willing to share our stories!

    I hope you'll stop by again!
    Best wishes,