Travel is fun, discovering places, experiencing different cultures, making new friends, make decisions in a whim just to be spontaneous. Oh yes, these are some wonderful things, but not when you travel with an autistic child.
Still, it did not stop me to travel with my ASD son, but it takes some planning to travel with him.
I have to consider what he likes, so we pick a place where everyone can be happy and it is accommodating him as well. Flying is the quickest way to travel, and fortunately he doesn’t have too much problems on the plane. I have to turn off the air for him because he always gets a severe allergic reaction from it. It took me some time to figure this one out, but once I did, flying got more pleasant. The waiting in the security line was also a challenge, but after a while I realized I can ask for a special need pass. That was just a perfect solution for us, and it shortens the waiting too.
Another travel method we used is the car. This is the most convenient way to travel with him. We can stop for bathroom , food or just to stretch at any time. He loves to ride in a car as long as he can look outside, and with enough stretching he can tolerate long drives as well.
We tried to take him on a cruise ship too. Lets just say, he had a time of his life. Even when we hit a bit of a rough sea, and everyone was dizzy, he enjoyed the motions very much.
He is fine sleeping in a hotel rooms as long as I bring his own sheets, or at least his own pillow case. He has allergic reaction to the detergent they use, even if I ask for hypoallergenic room. I usually let him sleep away from the door, just in case he decides to wake up and walk around, I would have enough time to catch up with him before he reaches the door. I have to pack his favorite snacks as well and his drink, so he has something familiar to eat and drink.
I need to keep his strict schedule for bedtime, so he has a bit of a continuity from home. Because it is very little predictability during travel, I have to reinforce our next steps over and over again. To be honest travel is a lot of fun for him, but lately I am feeling the heaviness more and more on me, and I do consider travel more of a work than leisure. As long as our destination involves water, and wide open spaces , he is a happy child, and that is all I need for my happiness.
Another important issue I have to tackle is drinking water safety. He has no concept of drinking only from bottled water and use that to rinse his mouth after brushing his teeth. I have to be on a constant alert with him in this case.
During travel, my concern of losing him is much more heightened. I usually dress him in clothes that have pockets, and write a little notes with names,numbers and address , so in case he is lost someone may find him and contact us. I also give him a little travel bag around his neck with several little zippered pockets. One pocket is dedicated to his personal information, medical history, contact numbers. All the others I just put different cards in it that he likes to take out, look at them and put them back. This activity always saved us when we were in long lines.
Travel had been great for us, with a few exceptions. Those exceptions involved TSA agents, who I personally think need much more training how to deal with people, and how to deal with special need individuals. The ignorance of dealing with special need children had caused some severe complications in our travel plan. I hope one day TSA will require their people to take a course regards to effective customer service, and polite human behavior.
Another consideration I have to keep in mind while traveling is to have a children’s’ hospital near our destination,that provides pediatric ICU services. My son has a medical condition that sometimes requires intensive care.
During travel, rather it is car, plane, or boat, I have to explain his behavior, or lack of behavior to many people. This takes time, and patience. So I prepare myself for delays, and dealing of the general population who are understanding, and those who are more ignorant and arrogant. The key in this case is not to lower myself to some of the ignorant people’s level.
Overall, travel is fun, a learning experience for the whole family. Good planning can make or break your trip. Consider all options, and know, there will be people everywhere who do not see eye to eye with you, and that is OK. Those are the experiences that makes us human, and understand that we are all different, as well as makes us appreciate educated well-mannered individuals. (educated not necessarily means diploma, because there are highly educated people out there with no intelligence.)