By Julie Provost, National Guard Spouse
This summer we took a three-week vacation to California to visit our families, go to Disneyland, and just enjoy family time away from home. These kinds of trips are never easy for our family. We have a child with autism, and that can complicate the time away from home.
Here are some things that worked well for us that might work well for you if you will be traveling with a child with special needs too.
Traveling With Autism
The number one thing you can do when you are traveling with a child on the autism spectrum is to make sure to prepare yourself. Make lists of everything you will do and when you will do it. Make sure to bring what you and your child will need. Plan ahead and don’t wait until the night before to start the packing process.
Prepare Your Child
Make sure your child understands what is expected of them before you go. Go over the schedule, many times if you need to. My son wanted me to go over what we were doing down to the day several times, and we started talking about our plan over a month in advance. He wanted to know what we were doing each day, what would be required of him on that day, and basically what to expect. I think him knowing what was going to happen was a big help when we actually started our vacation.
Setting up a reward system can help too. There will be times they might have to do something they are not used to doing and that can be hard. Figure out what works for your kid and what is important to them.
It’s okay if it isn’t how other families do it. One of the biggest things about traveling with kids on the autism spectrum is that your vacation is not going to look like other families. In today’s world, it is easy to compare how we should do things, including vacations. Do what works for your kids and your family. You will need to push your child, that just comes with not being home, but don’t feel like you have to do everything other families do to have a good time. You might need to include more downtime than others do.
Autism Awareness – Prepare Family and Friends
If you are going to see family and friends during your vacation, it would be a good idea to let them know what to expect from your child. That way, there will be fewer surprises. We went to a wedding on our vacation, and luckily most of our family and friends knew about our son. This helped avoid a lot of people coming up to him and making jokes, or being overly friendly. He prefers his space, and that was really respected.
Breathe, They Will Do Better Than You Think
In the end, your vacation will probably go better than you think it will. On the airplane, I was so nervous about how my son was going to do. And in the end, he did great. I was worried about a few other parts of our trip, and overall it went pretty well. I am glad that I prepared as much as I did, I think that helped with our success.
Have you traveled with a child with autism? What did you do to help you on your trip?
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