People with autism require as much structure and regularity in their daily routines as possible. Vacations are, by definition, a break from their everyday activities. This is why traveling can be a challenge for children and adults with autism.
Changes in habit, unpredictability, crowds, new sounds, and sights can all be overstimulating for persons on the spectrum and their families.
In this two-part blog, we'll explore travel suggestions for making a trip with your loved ones as memorable as possible, even if it requires quite a change in their routine.
First, we will discuss the obstacles you might face and what you can do to avoid them or deal with them if they do arise.
OBSTACLES TO PREPARE FOR
Difficulty leaving home and going to an unfamiliar environment.
Whether you’ll be travelling by car or by plane, it is important to prepare your child with the overview of the travel process.
Show images and/or descriptions of security, the terminal, the flight, baggage claim, and other areas. It's also a good idea to show them images of the location you'll be visiting. Explain how and when you'll be going, and go over the plan with them in detail so they know what to expect.
Review this plan as often as possible, weeks before the trip. This will help to make your child feel a sense of predictability in an otherwise foreign process.
A change in their daily routine.
Determine which aspects of your child's usual routine you can keep, such as sleeping at the same time at night and eating the same food they did at home.
It may also be beneficial to bring any of their favorite items from home, such as a favorite blanket or plushie, to help them relax in this new environment.
Avoid cramming a lot of activities in a single day. Attempt to balance out your scheduled activities throughout your trip.
It is always up to you and your child to determine how much they can absorb in one day. Try not to overwhelm them with introducing too many new things or experiences.
Allow them to enjoy one or two activities per day so they won’t feel like they are overloaded with new adventures.
After the day's activities, schedule plenty of downtime and rest at the location where you'll be staying.
Noises that are unfamiliar can be distracting, but ear plugs, noise cancellation headphones, or music players can assist.
If your child has trouble dealing with crowds or standing in lines, ask the gate attendant if you can board early to obtain a seat quickly, or board last to spend less time waiting before departing.
When traveling through public transport, you should try to get seats in the front, where your child will feel less cramped and congested than if they were in the back.
In booking hotel rooms, it is a good idea to contact ahead and request for a quiet room, as well as one with a refrigerator if your child has a specific diet.
Keeping an eye on your child.
Having a safety plan becomes even more crucial when traveling because habits change and new settings are encountered. If your child has a tendency to wander away from safety, discuss your emergency plan with the other family members.
Consider purchasing additional safety items, such as wearable ID tags, to ensure that your child always has a form of identification on him just in case you get separated.
Plan ahead of time what you'll do if you become separated, so your child will know how to find you.
Unexpected plan changes.
Because maintaining your daily routine on a trip can be difficult, adopting a schedule will help your child to establish a new routine for your trip. Your child will be able to predict what will happen next, which will help to alleviate some of the anxiety that comes with being in a strange environment.
Make reservations ahead of time to help you better prepare for your expectations. Avoid doing too many activities that depend on unpredictable things like the weather.
As we said earlier, consider avoiding not having too many activities in one day, to reduce the chances of something going wrong.
Now that you know what challenges to anticipate and how to solve them, in the second part of the blog, we will talk about some before and during travel tips that can help you make this vacation an unforgettable one for your child.
Taking a vacation is one of the many events that every family anticipates, but for families affected with autism, the thought of traveling can be stressful. Nevertheless, with a little preparation, every trip can be made more delightful for all members of your family.