What to pack when traveling with a child on the spectrum
Traveling with a child on the spectrum is challenging in some ways but when you’re properly prepared for the trip, it’s also very enjoyable. Being prepared means that you take everything your child needs to be safe, calm and happy along with you on the trip. For example, when packing your child’s medicine, take enough for an extra week in case your return home is delayed for some reason.
Being prepared also means taking the time to consider and write down the main things you worry about when traveling. Then create a plan to soothe or distract your child if that scenario begins to play out during the trip.
Having a plan allows you to take action as soon as you notice the signs that indicate a meltdown is near. This way, you can try and stop it before it begins. However, in order for your plan to work, you’ll need to have the right tools on hand no matter where you travel.
The following must-have items when traveling with your child with autism should be at the top of your packing list:
- Coping mechanisms – Your child is sure to feel overwhelmed or stressed at some point during your travels but you can ease some of his anxiety with the same coping mechanisms he uses at home. If playing with a fire truck, squeezing a teddy bear or snuggling with a blanket helps him deal with change, be sure to bring these items along. It’ll give him a sense of familiarity that should help him relax when on the verge of a meltdown.
- First-aid kit – Something as simple as a band-aid presented at the right moment could actually prevent a meltdown when traveling with a child with autism. So, always have a first-aid kit readily available for emergencies. Your kit should include an assortment of band-aids, bandages, healing ointment, tweezers, allergy medicine, a thermometer, and Tylenol or similar pain reliever.
- Personal items – If your child is sensitive to light, don’t forget his sunglasses. If loud noises set him off, noise-canceling headphones should be at the top of the packing list. Pack comfortable clothing that allows your child to move around freely and he’ll be a lot happier during your travels.
- Medical information – In case of an emergency, it’s important for those trying to help your child to know where he falls on the spectrum. It’ll make it easier for them to communicate with and help him. Equip your child with a medical card, bracelet or necklace explaining his condition along with your contact information in case you get separated.
- Snacks – When traveling you can’t always eat when you want to. For this reason, it’s a good idea to keep some snacks on hand. You may need to curb your child’s hunger until you can sit down to a meal. Snacks also make wonderful distractions when traveling that could help calm down a situation before it gets too far out of hand. Most kids will forget the things around them when they’re being offered their favorite snack.
- Electronics – If watching a movie on an iPad or listing to music on your iPhone helps keep your child calm and happy when traveling, have everything charged up and ready to go. It’s a great way to keep your autistic child entertained when boredom is a problem.
During the planning stage of your trip, create a checklist that includes the must-have items above. When packing, go down the list and check the items off as you pack them away. The checklist will help to ensure you have everything you need to make traveling with your autistic child the fun family adventure it should be.