Tips for preparing your neurodiverse child for school trips.

Summer term often also means school trip time.

School trips can be exciting, fun and enriching. But for some autistic children and others with SEND who rely on predictability and routine to feel safe the loss of the school structure can be difficult, especially when combined with potential sensory overwhelm.

Here are some tips and approaches to help you and your child’s school prepare them for the trip.

Familiarising them with the destination:

  • Social stories, visuals, maps, brochures are all useful tools
  • Show them where they are going on a map – google earth can also help here
  • Look at brochures together, see what sparks their interest and incorporate it in the itinerary if possible
  • Make a visual itinerary for the day to tick off and/or use a now and next board

Getting ready to go:

  • Consider using a countdown calendar
  • Use the “unless” model when discussing plans: ‘it will take this long ‘unless’ the traffic is busy’, ‘we will be doing this activity ‘unless’ it rains’

Planning for the journey:

  • Talk about how long the journey will be. Are there any landmarks to look out for?
  • Coach trips can be noisy – consider ear defenders
  • Think about any fidget toys, games or tools that may help
  • Consider and talk about where they will sit, who they will sit with

Organising for the trip:

  • Talk about who their partner will be, what group they will be in etc
  • Familiarise them with any rules for the trip
  • Will they be wearing school uniform or their own clothes? School bag or a different back pack?
  • Ensure there is a trusted adult they can go to

The day itself:

  • Have familiar and comforting items in their packed lunch – don’t worry about what other children have in theirs!
  • Consider popping a note in their packed lunch so they know you are thinking of them
  • Write an emergency telephone number on their hand or use a safety wristband
  • Make the return as demand free as possible – be prepared to spend down time at home
  • And finally… keep your morning routine as normal as possible. As hard as it may be… try not to let your own anxieties show