Autism and Vacationing – Ten Tips for Predictability
If you are wanting to take a holiday this summer with a child or two with autism, planning is the key to making a trip away from home successful. You have to create familiarity, keep routines as close as possible to what they are at home, and ensure predictability.
The best vacations for my family are ones where we have our own space and are not staying with family or friends. My children, Marc and Julia, need down times throughout the day where they can either be alone or together, but away from everyone else. We make adaptations where necessary, but for the most part we try to keep the routines the same as home. (When I speak of routines, I mean meal times, bed time, bath time and what the children eat remaining the same.)
I’d like to share some thoughts for making travel with children on the autism spectrum successful. I have spoken about predictability in past blogs. Individuals with autism need to know what is going to happen to them. Leaving home means everything is going to be different. Here are 10 ideas to create predictability when travelling:
1. Plot your journey on a map. As you pass through certain towns or landmarks they can be checked off.
2. If staying in a hotel, pull photos off of the internet and use them to create a social story of where you’ll be staying and what you’ll be doing there. Hotel websites will list their amenities; these can be incorporated into a schedule of the stay. Ex: Pool times, breakfast, on-site activities.
3. If not staying in a hotel, try to get photos and information of where you will be staying (campground, relative’s house, cabin etc.) Use this information in a social story to lessen anxiety.
4. Think about taking a place that has cooking facilities in order to keep food/meals the same. If a child is following a special diet, eating in a restaurant can be difficult. We also bring many of our own GF/CF products because small town grocery stores often don’t carry these items.
5. Plan activities ahead of time and share the information while still at home. Again, the internet is a great tool as most attractions will have a website, allowing for pre-planning and creating familiarity.
6. Allow your children to bring things that anchor them. For my daughter, it’s Sonic plush characters and Wii Games. For my son, it’s his portable DVD player, flags, and Thomas trains and books.
7. Suggest doing something that takes in a special interest. Marc loves butterflies so we take him to Butterfly World on Vancouver Island. Julia loves cats so we visit a second hand bookstore where the owner brings his cats to work. Both children love to swim so we book hotels that have pools.
8. Consider travelling in a trailer or motor home. You can rent, buy or borrow. We are still considering this option as a family. It is one way to keep your accommodations the same no matter where you are.
9. Plan for a treat while on holidays. Marc gets very excited at the prospect of adding a new flag to his collection. Julia is motivated by a visit to a new toy store. These things give Marc and Julia something to look forward to on a holiday.
10. When visiting family, keep visits short in duration and expectations reasonable. Big sit-down dinners with family members the child sees only once a year may be too difficult.
These are a few tips to keep in mind when planning your next vacation. Thanksgiving and Christmas will be here before you know it!
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