The summer travel season is just around the corner and, if you’re a parent of a child with autism, you know the mixed emotions surrounding this all too well.
Every family needs a solid getaway for relaxation, fun, and a break of routine for the parents as well as therapeutic challenges and activities for the kids. Altogether this creates a beneficial bonding opportunity for families.
For kids on the spectrum however, there can be a set of challenges other kids may not face. The break from routine, sensory overload, and long travel times often cause increased anxiety. This can lead to more tantrums than normal during travel.
Preparation is key for any trip, but when it comes to traveling with kids on the spectrum, it is absolutely vital.
Preparation starts by researching the best place to travel with your child. Think about what needs they have, their personality, and what can trigger anxiety and make your destination decision based off of these.
If your child has certain allergies, look up the hotel’s menu. If they love the outdoors and nature, pick a cabin in the woods. If they are triggered by loud noises come with noise canceling headphones.
You can also research which companies are the friendliest to special needs. While some hotels or vacations sites may have unprepared staff that may only be left staring if your child throws a tantrum in public, other places have trained staff that know how to accommodate autistic children. TradeWinds Resorts, Diamond Resorts, and Autism of the Seas are just a few such companies.
You can also prepare your child for some of the new experiences or sensations ahead of time. Try introducing them to sensations they will need to be prepared for a few weeks in advance. For instance, if you are taking a trip to the beach, try taking them to a park with a sandbox or take them swimming to gently ease them into the unfamiliar environment.
For making the travel process itself easy, whether you fly or choose to road trip, come prepared with an assortment of items to make the extended travel time less boring. Keep a bag of inexpensive toys at hand in the front seat if you hear your child getting loud or upset to calm them down. Other items such as an iPad, or LeapPads if your budget is tight, are also great options to reduce anxiety on an extended trip.
There’s no magic formula that will work for traveling with autism. The key is to know your child well, what they will respond to well, how to ease them into unfamiliar situations they can benefit from, and most importantly, focus on having fun as a family.