Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Autism and Travel - 10 Tips to Make Travel Time Easier

Living with an Autistic child can be challenging. The challenges only get worse when you need to travel for vacation or holidays. However, there are steps you can take to make traveling less stressful.

Keep a List - Create a list of tasks and items that need to be packed that can be used for each trip. If your list doesn't change very much, you can laminate it and leave it in your suitcase. Another option is to create a computer file with the basic list and print it out each time. Changes can be made in the computer before printing or by hand afterwards.

Build a Connection Early - Do your best to plan trips in advance. Begin by talking with your child. Speak positively about the trip and build excitement. Describe where you will be going and what they will experience. Try to find pictures, stories and activities to help them build a connection with the place. If they are verbal, ask questions to encourage them to talk about their feelings and expectations about the trip.

Include Comfort Items - Bring along items that are familiar and bring them comfort such as their pillow and blanket. Be sensitive to sensory issues. For instance, if they are very sensitive to smells, bring along things that smell calming to them.

Don't Forget Medications- Get the prescriptions refilled ahead of time and check your stock of over-the-counter medines and vitamins.

Keep Schedules - Do your best to keep to the schedule you use at home such as bedtimes and mealtimes. Autistic children need schedules to feel safe.

Find Ways to Prevent Overload - Plan ahead as much as you can so you can avoid places that are going to cause overload. Sometimes this isn't possible. If you suspect overload is possible, look for ways to get your child to a quiet place with fewer people. This could be time back at the hotel, a quiet park or a private place in the home you are visiting.

Do Not Force Activities - This can be difficult when they do not like loud noises and lots of people. You may want to bring a qualified person to watch your child. They could do an activity that your child would like and allow other family members engage in other activities.

Take Safety Steps - Make sure your child has has your name and phone number in case they get lost. If your child is verbal make sure they know what to do when lost. This can be very hard for an Autistic child. They have hard time dealing with people anyway. Create a plan and have them review it as you travel. Find a way to make it fit the way they learn. For example, if they are auditory you could make up a song or for kinesthetic learners include hand and body motions

Emergency Travel - If you have to travel for an emergency remember to stay calm or at least to appear that way. If you show stress your Autistic child will pick up on this and will become stressed as well.

Activities Are Important - Taking activities like video games, DVDs, books, audio books, music, crafts, etc. will make things run more smoothly. Add new games, books, videos, etc. to the mix by renting, purchasing or checking out items from the library.

Communicate With Others. If your child likes to wander on their own, it is important to let others aware. This way family, friends, or hotel staff can be aware that they may need to be of assistance.

Don't Neglect Breaks - Never travel in the car for more than 2 hours without stopping. This is physically demanding on anyone, especially children. Even a potty break at a rest area is enough to get the blood flowing again. Try your best to get non-stop flights to avoid long layovers. When layovers must occur, find ways to take sensory breaks. Sit your child where they can't see the activity or play their favorite music using headphones that will cover their ears and block outside noise.

Traveling with an Autistic child will take some extra planning, but you can do it. Just try and keep as much structure to the trip and be as creative possible. It will allow your family to have the most enjoyable trip possible.

There are so many things to deal with when caring for an Autistic family member. Gaining knowledge is so very important. You may find to be a helpful tool. has articles, videos and other resources to help you grow in the knowledge and understanding you need.

You are also invited to join the discussion through comments and the forum.

by Deborah Lee

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