If there is one thing my family likes to do, it’s going to the beach. Laying in the sun, playing in the water, watching the kids build sand castles, I mean just plain fun. Now take that image of the perfect beach day you see in the movies, and make it disappear. When you have a child with autism, it gets a little more challenging, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun. Here are a few tricks we learned in the last decade.
Autism and the Beach
(1) Be prepared to have at least one person to always be vigilant and ready for the child to be a runner. Like discussed in previous articles, Carter sees a flying insect, he turns into Dash from The Incredibles. Someone needs to be ready to grab and go and make sure he doesn’t run through other people’s areas, or even worse, straight into the ocean.
(2) Be prepared to eliminate sand from the body. There are a number of ways, but rubbing with a towel isn’t one of them. The easy solution, use baby powder. We almost go through an entire bottle for two kids, but it works. A more challenging solution, is a pressurized stock jeep bumper shower. Yep, that’s right! We had a jeep in North Carolina that we drove straight on the beach, had the rear bumper filled with 12 gallons of water, and a wired in water pump and hose that allowed us to spray off the kids before we got back in the jeep. Cool, huh!
(3) Sunscreen, Sunscreen, Sunscreen. Super important, as we don’t want your child to be sunburned and miserable for a week afterword, especially someone with sensory problems. This could turn into a massive nightmare in no time.
(4) Talking about sensory issues, Carter loves the sand. As soon as we get there, he wants dad to dig a hole near the water that he can sit in and sift his fingers and toes in while watching the water. So if you have this concern of kids getting sandy, or even sand down their bathing suits, you should try and get over that phobia.
(5) Being sensitive to light is another aspect with Carter, which resulted in us buy a 12 x 12 canopy to take with us and put up to let him get out of the sun whenever he wants. We don’t force him too, but after an hour or so, he will stand up, head to the canopy, and just start playing action figures or stem. Once he is ready to get back out, he goes. No need to rush him or make him do what you want, we just allow him to be comfortable.
There are a ton of aspects that can be discussed here, like having a cooler for cold drinks. Buying a wagon because Carter burned his feet one time walking on the beach and is scared to walk from the car to the water. Looking for sand crabs that poke their head out of the sand and scaring the daylights out of him. However, it is important to understand that these children may not always feel things the same way we did as a kid, or have sensitivities that we may never understand. By watching and learning, we were able to adapt and provide a fun beach experience for the entire family, instead of us or him.