(Inside: Check out these 5 steps you must take for an autism-friendly nature study! They’re perfect for helping your homeschooled autistic child get out into nature!)
When I started homeschooling, I had so many plans for fun activities we could do as a family.
We’d get out and explore the world around us… Right?
Well, then we found out that my son A-Man is autistic, and exploring new places isn’t really his favorite thing. In fact, he finds it pretty overwhelming…
But I think it’s so important to get kids outside and into nature, that I’ve figured out the 5 steps you must take for an autism-friendly nature study and I’m sharing them with you today!
5 Steps You Must Take for an Autism-Friendly Nature Study
See, my son loves to play outside, but it sends him into sensory overload pretty quickly and can cause some serious meltdowns.
Not to mention I have four other kids to keep safe and happy, and a nature study out at the park can become chaotic pretty fast!
Thankfully with these 5 steps for an autism-friendly nature study, the whole family can enjoy some time out in nature observing the plants, animals, and, well… nature!
#1 Find the Right Park
I cannot stress this point enough… It’s vital that you find the right park before you head out for your autism-friendly nature study.
You can’t just pick a place you’ve never been and hope for the best… That will lead to a disaster… #AskMeHowIKnow
When we’re looking for a park we make sure that there is both water and bathrooms on-site.
We also try to make sure there’s a mix of shade and sun so that we don’t get too hot.
And that it’s not a very popular park because too many people can get overwhelming for A-Man.
#2 Make a Plan Ahead of Time
Make. A. Plan.
Honestly, this is a step in an autism-friendly anything… Always make a plan!
Some people like surprises, but most of the time autistic children thrive on routine and order.
When we don’t know what to expect, our anxiety ramps up and it’s not fun for anyone.
So make a plan for exactly what you want to do during your nature study.
In our family we do three step plans. Tree, Walk, Waterfall, for example.
Other families use “first then” plans, so tree then waterfall.
Whatever planning system works for your autistic child, use it, but more than anything make sure you have and communicate a plan!
#3 Bring Plenty of Food and Water
If my son is hungry or thirsty with no access to food and water, it’s almost a guaranteed meltdown.
Honestly, if I’m hungry or thirsty with no access to food and water it’s almost a guaranteed meltdown from me!
The fact is, you always want plenty of food and water available. Maybe that’s a picnic lunch or maybe it’s a bag of snacks…
Now I know, I mentioned earlier that we always go to parks where water is accessible… Doesn’t matter. Still bring water!
Trust me when I say, the day you don’t bring your own water supply is the day your child will REFUSE to use any water from the park.
Do yourself a favor, always pack extra water!
#4 Have a Meltdown Plan
Okay, so the first few tips were primarily ways to prevent meltdowns, but sometimes it’s inevitable.
Meltdowns happen, especially when you’re doing something exciting like a nature study!
So my biggest advice is to have a meltdown plan that everyone knows ahead of time.
When my son has a meltdown, my husband and I divide.
One of us takes my son, the other takes over chasing Miss S.
Mr. C and Cap’n M know that they’ll either be with the parent chasing Miss S or they’ll continue their activity they were already doing.
That part mainly depends on if we can remove A-Man from the activity, or we have to remove the other kids from the activity.
Whatever way you handle meltdowns in your family, make sure everyone knows the plan so you aren’t scrambling when a meltdown happens!
#5 Follow Their Lead
This might be my favorite step… During an Autism-Friendly Nature Study, follow their lead.
Your autistic child might obsess over one flower for an hour. As hard as it is for you, let them.
Maybe your autistic child won’t look at any one thing for more than five seconds before they’re onto the next… Let them.
My son? He hugged this tree for half of our nature study time… He kept calling “Rapunzelllll let down your haiiiiir!”
Now, I could have become frustrated because playing Rapunzel with a tree was not the point of the nature study, and it was definitely not why I dragged all five kids out of the house in real clothes…
But he had a blast. And he was learning in his own way.
Remember that your autistic child’s brain works differently than yours, and let them explore the world in their own way.
Isn’t that the whole point of a nature study, anyways?
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