When setting expectations for your loved one with ASD, think about the most important behavior you would like to see. That is the one behavior on which you should concentrate.
For example, if you are meeting a friend for a meal and you would like your loved one with ASD to be friendly, make sure the rest of the encounter is fairly routine and predictable. Food should be known. The environment should be known. The only variable in this situation is the meeting of your friend. This will allow your loved one to concentrate on and succeed in the task of being friendly.
If you are planning on going to a restaurant you have never been before, you are adding another variable. Now you have 2-3 goals in mind. Being friendly to a new person, tolerating a new restaurant, and tolerating the food. Just because the restaurant serves a dish that your loved one usually enjoys does not mean he/she will enjoy it in the new restaurant. The food may be prepared differently, leaving room for rejection. Even though your loved one usually likes restaurants of the type you have chosen, this restaurant may be noisy, smelly or too visually distracting. All of these differences may make it difficult for your loved one to be friendly, and that was your main goal. After all, how would you feel if you were taken to a place with lousy food, and so loud your ears were hurting?
If you have a specific place in mind, try it out before introducing your friend. Your first goal would be to feel comfortable at this restaurant. Once accomplished (or abandoned as an incompatible location) you can move on to introducing your friend in the now familiar place, with familiar food.
As each goal is met, remember to reward and praise. This will encourage the behavior going forward. Set your loved ones up for success!
Feel free to contact us with questions/ suggestions on other situations.
Rebecca J. Weaver is a Certified Autism Specialist at Independent with Autism, working to empower individuals with ASD. Need help creating your success strategies? Check out IndependentwithAutism.com for more information.