Growing up as a child, I recall many social excursions with my family. Activities such as concerts, picnics, vacations and Sunday bowling, I always had something to look forward to. After all, children deserve fun outings instead of staying home and relying on meaningless technological entertainment (i.e. video games). Aside from planning family events and social outings with friends, what really matters is the quality of time spent with our kids as well as the countless number of memories that are created. This also pertains to families with children who have Autism.

Working in the field of Autism for almost 10 years, I can openly admit that I have come across a variety of families who often choose not to take their children on the spectrum out into the community. Some parents would admit to the social strain of dealing with temper tantrums and or behaviours, as well as the live entertainment for strangers to gawk, observe and comment. Yes, I can agree that this can be both mentally and physically draining for families to experience, as well as embarrassing.

Yes these situations can be difficult, but that shouldn’t mean that they are avoided all together. Support and various behavioural strategies for parents on how to deal with these awkward situations can be implemented to help ease the anxiety of all family members. It is also important to note that not all children with Autism are behavioural and can experience social outings without enduring public temper tantrums. The main point that I am trying to express is that children with Autism not only want to engage and participate in social outings, but also deserve it. Autism should not be the end all for families, but instead should be a learning experience, combined with the ability to take life with its ups and downs one step at a time. Moms, dads and children deserve to experience various social settings, and most importantly feel connected with their community. Whether its eating dinner at a restaurant, going to the Zoo or attending a Jays game, every family deserves to take their child with Autism and experience every positive moment that can be created. Kids just want to have fun, and so they should.

If you are a parent trying to brainstorm a fun activity or travel to an exciting setting to take your child to engage and explore, there are several locations that can be found within Toronto and across the GTA. Here are a few listed below:

  • Science Centre: A wonderful educational opportunity to explore various exhibits and presentations relating to the vast world of science & technology! From the human body to gravity, the Science Centre is a place where your child’s senses will be optimized and stimulated. The Science Centre permits 1 free adult to accompany children with Autism. Take that opportunity to bring support with you to help make the day much more enjoyable.
  • Centre Island: If you’re a family that enjoys plenty of sunshine and the great outdoors, centre island would be the perfect location for you. Free access, and a quick ride on a ferry, Centre Island is known for its beaches, public parks/picnic areas and quiet residential living.  The City of Toronto allows 1 free adult on the ferry to accompany children with Autism.
  • Canada’s Wonderland: Every child’s fantasy, a huge entertainment park filled with daring rides, games, water parks and activities. Who wouldn’t want to spend the day filled with lots of fun and adventure with your family and friends.
  • Ripley’s Aquarium: A recent attraction located downtown Toronto, Ripley’s caters to the world of aquatic life. You will find many visual displays of colourful tanks filled with fish, sharks and other incredible creatures!
  • Local trips to the park: We don’t always have to drive the distance to do something fun. By visiting a local park near your home, families can always entertain their children with various outdoor activities (i.e. playground, splash pads, baseball, tennis, basketball games, and or arranging an organized picnic).
  • Movie Theatres: Cineplex Odeon has launched “Sensory Friendly” movie nights for families with Autism to attend. Within these special settings, various sensory needs are met for individuals with Autism to experience a more positive movie experience (i.e. lights remain on, and sound is decreased to tolerable levels).
  • Reptilia: If snakes, lizards and crocodiles spark a sudden interest in your child, reptilian is the place to be! Just located north in the GTA, children can observe and engage with various reptiles.
  • Shopping Malls/Grocery Store: When making a quick trip to the store, we can always involve our children in the purchase process. By incorporating writing skills (i.e. making lists), math skills (i.e. counting money, identifying coins/dollar bills) and social opportunities (i.e. placing an order, exchanging an item, asking sales clerk for help) shopping with our children can turn from a mundane activity to a fun experience!
  • Cooking Class: Featured at various locations, families can enrol their children into weekly cooking classes at Longos and or Supercentre. Not only will your child enjoy cooking and interacting with their peers, but will also gain the experience and opportunity to create and try new foods.
  • Local Library: From fiction to non-fiction, libraries are great for expanding our children’s creative imagination within the world of literature.

Get out with your families and enjoy everything that your community has to offer. You will be amazed at how much all of your family members enjoy the trip.