My son, Tas, is seven. He is silly, loving, and always on the go. He loves to swing on the swings, jump on the trampoline, and hang out with his six older brothers and sisters. He also has autism and is nonverbal.
As the youngest of seven children, Tas arrived into a busy home with a hectic schedule. We were an active family with kids involved in all kinds of extracurricular activities and really enjoyed outings to parks, museums, zoos, sporting events, amusement parks, community fairs, and family vacations.
Tas’ autism diagnosis meant that some of these activities were challenging for him and for all of us. We knew we wanted to include Tas in all of the adventures his brothers and sisters enjoyed but we needed to do it in a way that did not make him miserable or his brothers and sisters feel like they had to just give up the activities they loved.
Some things were easier than others. Tas loves the water and going to the community pool or visiting a hotel pool while on vacation was something he enjoyed and a great family activity. It also gave him an opportunity to play with other children because his verbal and motor delays never seemed as significant when he was splashing around with other kids. Because it was an activity Tas enjoyed greatly, he seemed to be more tolerant of crowds and noise when we were at the pool. However, crowds and noise were definitely a problem in other settings like shopping, movie theaters, restaurants, and sporting events. We had to abandon more than a few outings because Tas was overwhelmed by the sounds, smells, or number of people.
We definitely had to start with things Tas enjoyed and build on those positive experiences.
Tas loves to be outside and go to the park. We found that short trips to the park with some time climbing and swinging made it easier for Tas to participate in a museum trip or lunch at a restaurant. We make sure to bring preferred items and snacks to reinforce positive behavior and give him breaks when he needs them. Since Tas does make vocalizations that can be quite loud and doesn’t enjoy sitting still, going to the movies can be difficult for us. We do not want to disturb others attending.
We have found that sensory friendly performances are a good opportunity for Tas to see a movie in a setting where no one is disturbed if he is moving around a lot of making noise. In fact, we take advantage of accessibility options offered at amusement parks which significantly reduces the wait time for rides and attractions. We utilize quiet rooms and sensory rooms at events and museums when Tas has needs a break. We attend sensory friendly events at theaters, trampoline parks, train rides, and other venues to introduce Tas to activities and allow him the most positive experiences possible to encourage him to try new things.
We have been able to take Tas to sporting events, which our family really enjoys. We learned that outdoor games, like baseball and football, are much easier for him. We think it is because the noise of the crowd is not as amplified as in indoor venues. Basketball games have shown to be something Tas does not enjoy. The buzzers and cheering are just too loud for him to be able to have fun. We have taken Tas to a few hockey games, starting with an autism awareness event and moving on to regular games on weeknights in the hopes of smaller crowds, and now Tas seems to have become a real hockey fan. He’s even made friends with the Reading Royals’mascot, Slapshot. I think we were all pleasantly surprised to see how much he enjoys watching the game.
With patience, practice, and supports, Tas has been able to participate in many of the activities his brothers and sisters do. He has fun experiencing the community, exploring the world around him, and interacting with his family in a variety of settings. As he grows, we hope to continue having new adventures not limited by Tas’ diagnosis but optimistic about the possibilities for the future.
Amy, Tas’ mom, Lancaster County