Summer is the time of year where we have a bit more free time – especially before the Monster starts public preschool in the fall – to actually do a bit of wandering about on recreational activities.
By far, the most frequent place we go is the pool at the JCC – it’s something we’ve paid for already and it’s an activity that he enjoys, as well as an environment where any behavioral issues aren’t going to be as apparent. (Well, save perhaps for in the kiddy pool if he’s taking too much time with other kids’ toys, though most parents understand that any unattended toys in that pool are fully up for grabs.)
To me, the bigger issue is when we’re out in public environments where he’s a bit more constrained in what he’s going to be doing and where it’s harder to both keep him distracted and in a zone where he’s going to be guaranteed to function well. It’s places like the zoo, or children’s museums, or restaurants, where there’s not as much call for running around and shrieking as there is at the pool or on a playground.
Sometimes, this boils down to pure-and-simple fatigue. There’s a limit to how long he’s functional in public when he’s starting to tire out, and we don’t always pay enough attention to when he’s gotten to that point. Depending on the day and how attentive we are, this is or isn’t a problem. On one end of the spectrum (attentive), we’ve managed to get him to simply lie down along the bench seat in a restaurant and go to sleep while we and his grandparents had dinner. On the other end… we’ve had to end dinner early in other restaurants, get to-go boxes and pay, and carry him kicking-and-screaming out of the restaurant before he drops off to sleep abruptly in the car.
This weekend, for example, we may be going to the zoo. We’ve had both ends of the spectrum there.
I feel like a bad parent, though, with all of the packing we do for such trips (and yes, I’m aware that even parents of neuro-typical kids do the same kind of planning). There’s the oodles of snacks. A Mio for making juice cups on the fly. Extra ice-packs to keep everything cold while we’re out. The iPod Touch is charging so that we can distract him with Sesame if he really does get out of control. It’s the last that makes me feel worst of all, that I’m providing an electronic distraction to keep him from wholesale melting down in public…
I wish I could come up with a better strategy for teaching him patience and control in public. Maybe if/when we get an adaptive device so he can better express his wants, we’ll see an improvement. (Maybe I’ll load Tap to Talk on the iPad or schlep along my Nook with it loaded to see as an experiment if it helps….)