The Taste of Chicago might not be the place families with kids with special needs consider when looking for something fun to do together. But Autism Home Support Services wants to make sure families get to do anything that appeals to them and that includes a huge food festival in the heart of Chicago.
It has teamed up with Kids Eat Chicago, a two-day family-friendly festival created by Chicago Parent the final two days of the Taste of Chicago, to make a welcoming place for all families with sensory needs.
Both Saturday and Sunday, Autism Home Support Services is sponsoring a quiet tent for parents and kids who need to rest, relax and recoup.
Then Sunday, 10 a.m.-noon, Kids Eat Chicago goes sensory friendly. A normally quieter time, the volume goes down for the entertainment and activities to create a safe, judgment-free environment more welcoming for families with special needs.
“It’s really about helping our families enjoy as many social outings as they can,” says Shelly Andrews, marketing director for Autism Home Support Services.
Kids with sensory issues and their families want to go out and enjoy the same things as their peers without fearing a public meltdown and what others might think, Andrews says. And Autism Home Support wants to help them do that, she says.
Tips for summer fests for kids with autism or sensory disorders
Get ready. If your child likes stories, write and read a story about what will happen at the festival. If your child is more visual, use pictures to map out the day. Review the schedule a few times in advance and bring it along.
Check it out. Identify the festival’s break areas, restrooms and exits ahead of time so it’s easy to find a quiet place or leave if needed.
Don’t forget the good stuff. Bring some favorite toys, comfort items and snacks to reinforce good behaviors.
Pack “trigger blockers.” If loud noises upset your child, have headphones handy. If sun and heat are issues, bring a portable misting fan and a hat.
Be realistic. For some children with autism and sensory issues, sitting on the outskirts of an event for an hour is a huge win. For other kids, being actively engaged in an activity or two might be the goal.
Autism Home Support Services