Children in general require as much routine and structure as possible in their every day life. Children with autism need this even more. So how does the family vacation fit into this?
Vacation is definitely a break from their routine. So should we just stay home and follow our precious schedule, or take a leap of faith and try to have a holiday with our autistic child and follow the every day routine as much as possible?
Many individuals with autism and their families do not travel because they are concerned with the changes and disruptions in routines that traveling today requires. But this fear is not as real as we often make it out to be. While traveling with an autistic child can be stressful, with thoughtful and careful preparation, the joy of accomplishment is priceless.
I have traveled with my children several times in the past by air and in the car. I would like to take this moment to share my experiences with you all about air travel with my son Amin.
We have flown short distances and we have also done cross -country,but we have never tried international travel yet. Our last travel was a 3hr airplane ride to the Northeast.
I think carefully when I prepare both of my kids, but with Amin, I start preparing a week before the travel. I call it “stimulating” the vacation plan. One of the easiest way I have found to get him ready for the airplane ride is to give him a book with airplanes in it, and to talk about flying. When we are walking outside, every time an airplane flies by I ask him “what is that Amin?”, and when he answers, then I will reply by saying, “we will be flying in a few days, isn’t that exciting?”
Plane travel can be exciting or it can be an absolute nightmare. I firmly believe if I plan it carefully it can be almost always enjoyable.
If you are traveling by plane, call the airlines as far in advance as you can, and tell them you will be traveling with someone who has special needs. Some airlines have “special assistance coordinators.”(I feel fortunate that I never had to make a special arrangement for Amin. He is used to going on the airplane and loves to fly. All praise to God.)
If the person is a rocker, asking for bulkhead seats or the last row of seats on the plane that will limit the number of fellow travelers that are impacted by the rocking.
Persons with autism should always carry identification. Make sure that they have an id tag attached to them somewhere, or put in their pocket with a current phone number written on it. You can order medical bracelets, necklaces and tags to attach to shoe-laces.
Here are two links that you can check out and get different IDs for the kids:
In addition to preparing the child for this wonderful trip, you may want to take along his/her favorite toy. You may want to get a second one just in case the original gets lost, (may God protect us from that event) and during the trip you can break in the newest toy. My son loved Elmo. Thankfully he doesn’t really care about him too much anymore. Now we have a quiet toy, an inch worm, and while we are traveling he is obsessed with it. Also, I pack his favorite snack food and some sweets for any emergencies. I have lollipops to suck on for take off and landing, so he can pop his ears. I usually bring his favorite book , crayon and coloring book. Just remember, a little bit of creativity can be a life saver.
These practices have made traveling much easier for our family. Now, we look forward to any travel opportunity as we all enjoy the experience. A little planning goes a long way!
Most importantly, just go and travel with your child. As you go, you will develop coping mechanisms that work for you, and serves your child’s needs as well.
Check back soon for part two where we will discuss airport security and other tips and tricks to make traveling easier!