To help with community exposure, the first thing for a parent, caregiver, or trainer to do is to establish some connections with the local stores, banks, and transportation agencies. By explaining the situation ahead of time, it allows the staff of that place to prepare for the encounter. Many shops will be willing to cooperate if they know what to expect with regard to specific behaviors or habits that are typical. If a community location does not feel comfortable with the situation it is good to know that so you can try something else. If a person with ASD has a bad early experience, it maybe difficult to get them to try again.
Once you've prepped the community location and they are on board, then you need to prep the person with ASD for the encounter. If the person with ASD is not familiar with the location, have them become familiar by taking them to that location in a non-training situation. Once the person has familiarity with the sights, sounds, and smells of the place, then a training run can be tried. Rehearse the desired independent behavior prior to going to the location and let the location know when you are coming so they can provide assistance if needed. The person with ASD my need a reminder of what to do once they arrive. This can be done with cue cards, pictures, or task lists. these can be put on a smart phone or tablet for greater discretion. This visual reminders will promote greater independence than verbal instructions so the visual reminders should be given first.. Allow the person to attempt the activity without help at first then provide the visual or verbal instruction as needed.
Multiple repetitions in the location will likely be needed before independence with this activity is achieved. It may be helpful to have a specific employee be the initial contact to help promote comfort when initial learning is taking place. Once familiarity is established other employees can be introduced by the familiar employee so trust and generalization are gained. As with any training patience and positive reinforcement are very important for ensuring continued cooperation and motivation for the person with ASD to keep trying. Any corrections taking place in the community should be brief and discreet as possible with greater elaboration, practice and retaining done on the home or training setting. If successful, the experience will not only provide a boost in self worth for the person with ASD, it typically provides a positive experience for the staff of the community location and will foster greater cooperation and tolerance from them in the future.