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Tips for Navigating Non-Sensory Friendly Places

October 19, 2021
Advocacy, Early Childhood, Parenting

For children with sensory processing difficulties, there will be times when they’ll visit places that are not sensory-friendly. Here are some tips to help make your child’s time in the community a little easier:

  • When possible, visit places that are family friendly. Many of these businesses and public spaces already provide special accommodations for children with sensory sensitivities and disabilities.
  • Check out their website. Available supports such as stroller rental, sensory map, headsets, calm spaces, and food/dietary options may be listed so you can get a lay of the land and know your options.
  • Prepare and then prepare some more. Social stories, checklists, or visual schedules are great ways to help your child know what to expect.
  • Pack a “go bag” that includes your child’s favorite toy, gadget, or snacks. The idea is to include anything that will make your child feel calm and comfortable when they are out in the community.
  • If your child is sensitive to loud noises, wearing noise-cancelling headphones may help them self-regulate.
  • Dress your child in brightly colored clothing and take a photo of your child before leaving home. This is especially important if your child has a tendency to wander. Let your child wear an ID bracelet, shoe tag, or a GPS. The goal is to make it easier to find your child if they get lost. You can even attach travel-sized lights to their bag, which can make it easier to spot them in a crowd.
  • If possible, travel with another adult who can provide additional support. A second set of hands and eyes can make a big difference.
  • Arrive early to avoid large crowds and long lines. When visiting places like the zoo, request a Guest Assistance Card upon arrival at the admissions booth. This will enable you to bypass long lines. Other locations throughout the city may have something similar. Check with guest relations upon arrival for help. The IBCCES Accessibility Card (IAC), for example, is designed to help individuals with cognitive disorders or physical impairments identify and receive helpful accommodations at certified attractions worldwide.
  • Be flexible and have an exit strategy. Be prepared to leave early if you feel your child is overstimulated or overwhelmed—you can always go back another time! You may have arrived by train but if your child is overwhelmed you may want to consider another mode of transportation that may be more supportive, e.g. Uber, taxi, or a walk, if possible.