Travel Tips for Families With Autism
Read these experts’ advice on how to plan a family vacation that includes an autistic child.
Plan Ahead and Stay Flexible
Such are the challenges of traveling with an autistic child. However, you can avoid much of the risk by planning ahead and staying flexible, according to three experts who also have autistic children.
There are no real magic tricks. Knowing your particular child’s idiosyncrasies and trying to factor those into the traveling is important. You should know your child’s limits and not push them too far beyond what they’re able to do—just like any other kid.
Take Steps to Prevent Meltdowns
Work with your child continuously to prevent meltdowns which will most likely occur in unfamiliar places, and when things don’t go as expected, have some treats available to reward positive behaviors and to redirect your child’s attention when he or she becomes stressed. Always think of the worst-case scenario, and always think two to three steps ahead. You’ve got to have a Plan B.
Take It Slow
Make sure you take plenty of breaks so no one becomes overstimulated.
Mealtimes can be particularly challenging for autistic children. If you want to dine out—when traveling or for a special event—practice eating out in your hometown every couple of weeks. Don’t wait until your anniversary dinner to see how it goes.
Stay Close to Your Children
Stay as close as possible to your child’s normal routine. Surround the child with familiar items: toys for youngsters, books and electronics for teens.
Talk to Your Child Before and During Your Trip
Talk to your child before and during the trip about what to expect. Reminding them what activities are planned each day gives them more comfort about what’s ahead. If your child uses visual schedules or social stories, those tools also help ease traveling.
Bring Along a Sitter
At times, it became easier to leave your children at home with a sitter while your pursue other interests. Why not bring a sitter along to assist you with your child? When traveling, Autism Travel Specialists offers Certified Autism Specialists who can travel with you to assist you with your children. Contact us for more details.
Notify in Advance
Notifying airlines, cruise lines, amusement parks and hotels in advance can bring special considerations.
When Visiting a Theme Park
At amusement parks, using a stroller for small children or a wheelchair for older kids (even if they do not need one) reduces exhaustion
Flying with Autistic Children
While many parents do not fly with their autistic children, sometimes it is unavoidable. If you are preparing to fly, Alert the flight attendant early on. It might also help to explain it to the people around you. If there is an area of open seats, suggest that the flight attendant move your family there.
Visiting Friends or Family
When visiting friends or family, tell them in advance what to expect. Also advise them in advance of special dietary or physical needs.
Music for the Children
MP3 players with headphones, loaded with favorite music, are good for children who are disturbed by noises. Personal DVD players help make a long car trip more enjoyable.