3 Tips for Planning a Successful Play Date for Your Child with ASD

Scheduling play dates for your children is a great way to help them work on their social skills while having fun. For parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), however, navigating a successful play date can be much more challenging. Here are some tips to keep in mind when you’re planning a play date for your child:  

Put a time limit on it. 

It’s important to remember that you want to set your child up for success and that may mean a short playdate; even as short as 30 minutes to an hour. As the parent, you know your child’s strengths and needs so keep that in mind when setting the time limit.  As your child increases their social skills, you can gradually increase the length of your playdate.   

Choose the environment carefully. 

It may be tempting to take your child to a park or a playground, but if those places are crowded, the level of sensory stimulation may be overwhelming for your child.  Try going to public places when they are less likely to be busy, and choose quieter environments such as backyards or smaller parks for your child’s play date. When picking the environment, you’ll also want to consider your child’s and their peer’s interest.  Choose an environment that is conducive to the types of activities or toys they like to play.

Give your child a way to take breaks. 

It’s important that children with ASD are able to remove themselves from challenging environments whenever they start to feel upset. Make sure that you have a place for your child to retreat to during the play date if they begin to feel overwhelmed or anxious.  It is okay for the children to play separately for a bit if that is what they need to ensure the playdate will be a success. Children tend to get overstimulated during playdates, so it’s important to give them some time to wind down afterward. 

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