Anxiety, sensory overload, noise and meltdowns – just a handful of things that parents of autistic children tend to worry about on a daily basis. Add unfamiliar surroundings and large crowds into the equation and most are left thinking “is it worth it?”. Rather than cancelling your plans (which brings its own problems), we want to share with you some ways of reducing and managing your child’s anxiety to help you and your child to enjoy more days out.

With the summer school holidays approaching, you’re likely to encounter some large crowds and a lot of noise when visiting popular places and venues. We want to ensure you, your child and family or friends can make the most of this time to experience new surroundings and have a fun-filled trip out, without the additional worry.

Here’s our top tips on how to prepare your child for dealing with large crowds:

Download Picturepath

Online visual timelines for SEN children

If you don’t already know, Picturepath is a digital visual timeline app designed to help autistic children to plan and visualise their day. Parents and children can work together to create a timeline by using images and can break down activities into smaller steps to provide a level of detail to suit your child.

Picturepath is free to download and use for basic access or users can subscribe for £3.99 per month for premium access.

Learn more about the Picturepath app.

Plan and talk about your trip out in advance

Parent and child talking

In the days leading up to your day out, discuss your plans with your child and explain what the environment might be like to manage their expectations. Aim for more of a “it will be busy and noisy but it’s going to be a great day even with all of those people” way, rather than a “wow, big crowd, you might not like it”.

You can even use Picturepath’s ‘Visit with Picturepath’ guides to visualise your day if you’re visiting one of our venue partners.

Visit during autism friendly hours

Clock showing time

From cinemas to concerts, retail shops and museums, a lot of venues now offer autism friendly times to visit. These are usually much quieter and less busy times and can offer a much nicer experience for autistic people, including children.

It is worth checking the venue’s website or giving them a call to see if this is something they offer and if so, find out exactly when the autism friendly hours are.

The wonderful “Autism in Museums” team are worth following on social media as they often post details of quiet hours and SEN enabling opening times.
Noise cancelling headphones
Noise? What noise? As we know, loud or harsh sounds can very often lead to a meltdown but noise cancelling headphones can massively help autistic people to avoid a sensory overload.

Always carry a stim toy (or two)

Child playing with popper stim toy

Stim toys such as bubble poppers, fidget spinners and tangles are great tools to have at your disposal to aid self-stimulatory behaviour and to help calm and de-stress your child. Packing one or a few of these with you on a day out will help to reduce the chance of a meltdown and also helps to develop concentration, tactile awareness and visual perception skills.


Do you have any other top tips for helping your child to cope with large crowds? Let us know in the comments below 👇👇👇