So what if your child has an exceptionality, they deserve to be part of the enormous fun and culture of that once a year experience of Mardi Gras. Navigating a parade can be stressful for any family with kids, but with proper planning, the experience can be a little less stressful.
Here are my 5 tips on how to prep to celebrate Mardi Gras with a child with autism ::
When setting up for a day of floats, beads, and consider the beginning or end of the parade route. These areas are usually less crowed. The earlier in the day, the easier it will be to enjoy with kids. Night parades are fun too, but tend to draw larger crowds. Be cautious of extremely crowed spaces in case you need to make a quick exit with your child. Avoid setting up next to the college tent as it can get a little CRAY CRAY (it is Mardi Gras)! “Mom, I have to potty!” There are many establishments that offer restroom passes or grab a bucket, add kitty litter and BAM, you now have a make shift potty (thanks Fabe)! Finally arrive early enough to get settled and comfortable.
Children with autism are very schedule and routine oriented. Talk to the child ahead of time on any possible changes or adjustments in their daily schedule. Pack a special bag filled with your child’s familiar / favorite toys, blankets, books, snacks, and other items to help with being comfortable in an unfamiliar place. It’s not everyday your child spends multiple hours waiting for the parades. If naptime is part of the routine, bring a wagon and your child’s napmat or favorite pillow for the child to rest. Power up the external chargers and make sure the iPAD is juiced up.
Family and friends can be just as exhausting as navigating the day with your child. Take some time prior to go time to prep your friends and family with quick need to know information about your child to ensure your child’s safety. Your community of people need to know how to properly handle possible situations. For example, if your child elopes in open spaces, be sure to have eyes on the child at all times. Eyes everywhere. I would not be opposed to the child harness. Ignore the stares and crooked lips. They don’t know your daily struggle.
All children with autism are all different and may have multi-sensory concerns. Depending on the particular parade, the floats (Endymion) are created with many bright and moving lights and can be over stimulating. Bring your child’s favorite pair of shades (bring yours too) or open the umbrella to use as a shield. The beautiful sound of a bass drum that gets us moving and grooving can be quite overwhelming for a child with autism. Pack the noise cancelling headphones.
While the focus is to prep your child with autism to have the best and safe Mardi Gras experience like the rest of the family, make sure to take care of other family members. Create a quick escape plan if your child with autism gets too overwhelmed. Suggestion: one adult removes the child with autism from the parade route to a calm environment while the rest of the family continues to enjoy the festivities. Have a ladder? Practice getting in and out of the ladder. Allow your child to get comfortable in the ladder and appropriate behavior while sitting in the ladder. Don’t forget an identification bracelet(necklace) with vital information for your child.