Tips for Traveling with Autism
Traveling with children certainly has its challenges but when you add autism to the equation, it becomes even more challenging. Normally, children on the spectrum prefer following a daily routine. It provides structure and creates a safe environment where your child feels comfortable because he knows what to expect. He knows when he will eat, play and go bed each day so he feels more in control.
Traveling takes that control away. It puts your child in unfamiliar places and takes away the safety of a daily routine. The different sights, sounds, and smells can over-stimulate children with autism. It can leave them feeling uncomfortable, confused and anxious. If your child becomes agitated, a complete meltdown may follow. However, there are things you can do to make taking trips less stressful.
Here are a few tips for autism families to help make your next trip a pleasant experience for the whole family:
- Choose low-stress destinations – If you’re getting stressed out about the upcoming trip, your child will sense it. This will add to his stress, which could easily lead to a meltdown. You can avoid this cycle by being flexible and choosing destinations that allow you to do things at your own pace.
- Go over your traveling plans with your child – It’s often difficult for a child on the spectrum to embrace change but you can help make it easier simply by helping him prepare for the trip. Explain where you’re going, when you’re leaving and how long you’ll be gone. Show your child pictures of the places you plan to visit and talk about what will happen when you get there. This way, things won’t feel as strange to your child because he’ll know what to expect.
- Follow your regular routine as much as possible – This can be difficult when traveling but there are some things you can do the same. For example, you can still eat meals at the same time each day and plan to get up and go to bed at your regular times. Maintaining a routine as close to normal as possible will help alleviate some of the triggers that might set off a meltdown.
- Consider the whole family’s needs when planning your trip – While taking steps to ensure your special needs child is prepared for the trip is important, you don’t want to forget about everyone else. The goal is to make traveling fun and stress-free for the whole family. Choose a destination and plan activities that everyone enjoys and schedule in plenty of time for family relaxation.
- Make all of your reservations early – Don’t wait until the last minute to start making plans. Some hotels, restaurants and vacation destinations are more accommodating when it comes to children with autism than others. Learn all you can about the destination you’re considering beforehand to ensure it’s the right choice for your family. Then, make the reservations and other arrangements in advance and everything should go a lot smoother.
- Double-check reservations a week before you plan to leave – In addition to making your reservations early, always double-check everything a week or two before it’s time to leave. Sometimes, things change unexpectedly and mistakes are made. Double-checking just to make sure everything is still in order will put your mind at ease.
- Pack wisely – What you take with you when traveling with a child with autism is important. In addition to the medicines and other necessities, pack some of the child’s special things that help to keep him calm and relaxed. It could be that teddy bear he never wants to let go of or a special blanket that helps him sleep. Make a check-list to ensure you don’t end up forgetting something important.
- Bring plenty of snacks and beverages along – Any child will get cranky when they’re hungry or thirsty but it’s even more difficult for artistic children. They may not understand why they can’t have food now if you’re not near a restaurant when hunger strikes. Having a snack on hand will help keep him calm and happy until you can sit down to a meal.
These tips can help make your next trip go a little smoother when traveling with an artistic child. Be sure to take a lot of photos while you’re gone. The next time you plan a trip, you can use them to help remind your child that he had a good time before and everything was great. It’ll help put his mind at ease and prepare him for your new adventure.