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Community Trouble Spots for Children With Special Needs

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Taking your child with special needs out into the community can feel like setting foot in a minefield. Check out these potential trouble spots, and get tips on how to give your child and your family a successful experience.

1. The Restaurant

Dining out as a family can be a lot of fun -- or it can be a horrifying disaster, if your child's special needs can't be accommodated in a way that helps you keep the peace. With a little preparation and these simple tricks, you can give your mealtime outing the greatest chance at success. You'll also be able to cut and run when you need to. ... Read More

2. The Mall

Malls can be overwhelming places for children who have trouble with noise and activity and keeping their hands to themselves. That doesn't mean you can never go shopping with your kids along, but it does mean you have to plan carefully. These five tips will make your trip shorter, smoother, and less stressful. ... Read More

3. The House of Worship

Making it through a worship service with a child with special needs can be a true test of faith. Between keeping your child under control and warding off the evil eye of fellow pew-sitters, you may feel that no one in your family is getting anything out of the service. If you have your heart set on some kind of Ideal Worship Experience, wherein your neatly dressed children sit quietly for every minute of the service, you’re probably out of luck. But that doesn’t mean your family should give up and stay home. Try these tips for getting more than a headache out of worship time. ... Read More

4. The Airplane

Traveling with kids is hard. Traveling with kids with special needs, for whom disruptions of routine and transitions and large blocks of unstructured time can be a considerable trial, can be so very much harder. Here are six steps to take to make your flight at least a little bit smoother. ... Read More

5. The Family Gathering

Family get-togethers are the worst. Too many people. Too much noise. Too much food. Too many opinions on the ways you're raising your children. Never mind the fact that kids with special needs often go crazy during big family events -- they're often not exactly a shining hour for us as parents, either. How can you make it through the meal without chewing someone out, putting your foot in your mouth, or eating your words? If a quiet dinner at McDonald's is out of the question, here are some ways to get through these gatherings without going crazy. ... Read More

6. The Playdate

Structure and preparation are essential to successful outings for children with autism and other special needs, but it's sometimes hard for parents to know how to do that. The book Out and About introduces a blueprint method that lets you fill in the blanks with cool tools that will help your child before, during, and after stressful out-of-home situations. The authors know that we could use a little structure to help us, too. ... Read More

7. The Athletic Field

Every child has the right to enjoy the fun of playing sports, the joy of teamwork, the achievement of hitting a ball or making a goal or crossing the finish line. Many programs have been developed to get children and adults with disabilities in the game. Find one that's right for your child. ... Read More

8. The Summer Camp

Camps designed specifically for kids with special needs -- from developmental differences like autism or intellectual disabilities to medical issues like diabetes or cancer -- are one good option for your challenged camper. Consider the pros and cons of this type of camp, then compare to other options like mainstream camp and Camp Mom. ... Read More

9. The Waiting Room

Wherever you're waiting -- a doctor's office, an airport gate, a restaurant entryway, a sibling's activity -- you're going to want to have a big "bag of tricks" on hand, a deep supply of items and ideas that can fill a moment or turn a head. Don't leave home without it. ... Read More

10. The Playground

Going to the playground should be a fun experience with your child. Youngsters with special needs often love the equipment they find there, but stumble over the socialization that's often expected in playground outings. If your playground visits have become more fearsome than fun, follow these five quick tips for a happier time out. ... Read More

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