Family travel with Autistic children may be a little tougher but it is not something you should avoid. It is an experience you will both treasure.
Are We There Yet? Family Vacations with Autistic Children
Although planning a family vacation with children may make any parents pull out his or her hair, it can be a rewarding experience for everyone in the end. It is no different if you have an autistic child in the family. The important thing to remember is that you need to be prepared for whatever life throws your way. To an autistic child, vacations can be scary and confusing, or they can be a great learning experience, leaving behind wonderful memories the entire family can enjoy.
First, choose your location based on your autistic child’s needs. For example, if he or she is sensitive to sound, an amusement park is probably not the best idea. Quieter vacations are possible at small beaches and going camping.
Overall, you should be able to find a location that everyone in the family enjoys. Once there, plan out your days accordingly. For example, you may want to see the attractions very early or late in the day to avoid crowds.
You also might want to consider taking your vacation during the off-season, if your children’s school work will not be disrupted. These give your autistic child more comfort if he or she is nervous in crowded situations, and provides you with a piece of mind.
When choosing a location, also note how far it is from your home. How will you get there? If you have to deal with an airport, remember that security may have to touch your child and be prepared for this.
Choose a location and activities that everyone can enjoy, but also that provide learning and social interaction opportunities for your autistic child. For example, a child that does not like touch sensations may enjoy the soft sands of a beach, and the waves can provide a very different kind of feeling for him or her.
Being outside, a beach is also a great place for your child to yell without disrupting others. Children who are normally non-responsive may benefit from a museum, where they can ask questions and you can ask questions of them.
Remember that most people on vacation at the location you choose will have never dealt with autism before. Try to be understanding of their ignorance-but also stick up for your child if he or she is being treated unfairly.
Know your child’s constitutional laws, and also be willing to compromise. For example, if a restaurant is reluctant to serve you after your child caused a scene there last night, explain the situation and ask if it would be possible to take your food to go, even if this is normally not done.
Try not to be rude to people; staring often happens, but instead of snide comments or mean looks, ignore them as much as possible and focus on having a good time with your family.
Autistic Children & Travel
Daily life with an Autistic child can be a challenge, to say the least. What should you do if you are traveling for vacation or another purpose? Let’s look at some things a parent can do when traveling with their Autistic child.
1. Plan ahead. If at all possible plan trips far in advance. This gives you time to talk with your child and get them used to the idea of traveling. You can explain to them where they will be going, and some of the things they will be doing while away.
2. Bring items from home that your Autistic child likes. Bring their favorite toys. Bring along their pillow and blanket they use each night. Try and keep as many items that are familiar to your child with you while traveling. This can help your child to relax in their new environment. Bring noise canceling headphones for the child.
3. Bring all their necessary medications. You do not want to be away from home and not have their medicine. Get the prescriptions refilled before the trip to make sure you do not run out.
4. Try and keep a schedule while traveling. If possible keep some of the schedules you use while at home. Try to get up and go to bed at the same time each day. Autistic children need their schedules to feel safe.
5. Do not overload your child. If your child has a lot of sensory issues do not overload them while traveling. If you see your child getting overwhelmed go back to your hotel for a break. Warn your child if the place you are going has loud noises, or bright lights if these are issues.
6. Do not force your child to do something they are not comfortable doing. For example, do not make them go to an amusement park if they do not like loud noises and lots of people. Consider bringing a qualified person to watch your child while you visit the park. They could do an activity that your child would like instead.
7. Make sure your child has something with them that has your name, and phone number where you can be reached in case the child gets lost. If your child is verbal make sure they know how to tell someone they are lost. This can be very hard for an Autistic child. They have a hard time dealing with people anyway.
8. If you have to travel for an emergency try to stay calm. If you are stressed about the trip your Autistic child will pick up on this and become stressed their selves.
9. Take lots of activities the child enjoys to keep them occupied while traveling. This could be handheld games or a portable DVD player. This can help keep your child from becoming overly bored. It can also give them something to focus on if they start to feel uneasy.
10. Notify the place where you are staying that your child is Autistic. This is very important if your child likes to wander on their own. The staff at the hotel will know if they see the child and you are not with them to contact you right away.
Traveling with an Autistic child will take some extra planning, but it can be done. Just try and keep as much structure to the trip as possible. It will make the trip more enjoyable for you and your child.