Once you experience the world with a child with autism, you realize that there are many daily routines that we take for granted, and we don’t consider how many skills are involved.
For children with autism, it can be difficult to learn and generalize certain skills, so every routine can potentially become a learning experience.
Shopping for souvenirs is a great example of this, and I have put together a list of the skills your child can learn from this seemingly ordinary travel experience.
Tell your kid ahead of time what funds he or she can spend on souvenirs so they can decide which items to buy.
It may be helpful to write the actual amount in a notebook or checkbook format so they would be able to go back and reference what their initial balance was and how much they chose to spend and on what on what, especially if they tend to become confused or are forgetful.
Adherence to rules
Explain to your kid with autism both in person and in writing (in the designated notebook) how you expect the money to be spent.
Let them know ahead of time whether there are items he or she are not allowed to purchase or of any restrictions on funds to be spent on a daily basis. It’s better to settle differences and opinions ahead of time in the privacy of your home instead of during a public meltdown.
Inspire your kids to become savvy consumers and check prices of items for they might be interested in purchasing during their travel online ahead of time. By doing so, they learn to become aware of different pricing systems as well as different state or foreign country taxations.
Recognizing the value of FREE
Encourage your kids to collect free mementos from the places you visit, such as airlines, hotels, cruise ships, and restaurants. Point out to them that the free maps, stickers, postcards, brochures, pictures, napkins with logos and pens are great to use in scrapbooking as well as the start of many travel memorabilia collections.
Haggling as a negotiating skill
parents should advise kids to compare prices carefully at least with five places before purchasing anything, especially in a market environment.
After deciding on their future purchase, they should attempt to approach the seller in a polite tone and ask for a discount. Clearly they might not be successful the first time or even the tenth time, but their negotiating skills will get better with every attempt.
Encourage your child to carry his/her souvenirs in their own separate carry-on bag. This way your child will be able to keep visual track of not only what he/she has accumulated so far on the trip but how much space there still is to fill.
Bear in mind this will take some time and practice to master, especially if your child is not used to the method, but it can eventually teach your child to prioritize and curtail their shopping.
Promoting decision making based on past experiences
Teach your kids to think about potential problems they might encounter with their potential purchases.
Discourage them from choosing anything made out of glass, porcelain, or ceramics (could break), or is made of many different moveable/removable small parts (could lose pieces).
Mastering the art of packing
While allowing our son to purchase and carry his own souvenirs solved some issues, we still had another to cope with—a matter of spatial perception.
We had to teach our son exactly how much he could fit into his knapsack, and even more importantly, how fragile, easily an item could be damaged if placed incorrectly in the bag. After numerous meltdowns (his) and a limitless supply of patience (ours), he has learned to wrap everything using paper, socks or even towels to prevent any unnecessary breaks or scratches.
Perhaps the best consequence of our struggles is that our son has become much more respectful and appreciative of his belongings.
Unlike before, when mom and dad paid, packed, and carried his souvenirs and he did not care if they got damaged or stolen, now he watches over them to the point of obsession—even putting his prized possessions in the hotel vault for safe keeping*Tetris is a video puzzle game involves different configurations of blocks falling. The concept is for the player to control the place they fall onto and make sure they fit into each other.
Opportunities such as these come up often in your day-to-day activities, and there are even more teachable experiences when traveling abroad. What have you used as a teachable experience for your child with autism