Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tips for Summer Travel with an Autistic Child

Here are very sensible travel tips I could of certainly made a good use of last year when Sebastian and I went overseas in the summer. I ended up cutting my hair off very short to prevent him from pulling it. I could not literally get him out of my hair any other way. We would be asked off the plain in the middle of the ocean if flight attendants were listening to passengers demands . People were bothered by his high pitched screams and kicking.

Traveling with kids of any kind can be trying on a parent trying to get where they’re going and keep the little ones happy along the way. Many families of autistic children feel even more pressure when traveling because of their child’s special needs and some won’t take trips or even go out to eat for fear that their child will be set off by unfamiliar surroundings. Recent events, included a mother forced to disembark from a plane with her autistic son, complicate travel even more for many parents. Travel can be a great learning experience for children, however, and with a little extra preparation and planning you can take your autistic child on a great trip this summer.

1. Have a plan. It’s essential that you become a great planner if you’re going to take an extended trip with your child. Create a schedule of what you plan on doing each day so you’ll know just what to expect and can plan for the majority of things you’ll encounter.
2. Prepare your child. A few weeks before you depart, start giving your child pictures and information about the places you’ll be visiting and staying. A calendar, drawings and a fun plan of what you’ll be doing can all be helpful to make your trip seem like less of a departure from routine and something more fun to do.
3. Consult with businesses and services. Many airlines, theme parks and tourist services are more than happy to work with parents of autistic children to ensure that all involved have a good time. Some will allow children to bypass long lines, sit in special seating or just work to make sure that they’re comfortable. Additionally, letting businesses know ahead of time gives them time to prepare so they’re ready when you arrive to meet any special needs.
4. Consider your child’s needs. Each child and his or her experience of autism is different so what works for one parent may not work for you. Since you know your child better than anyone else, figure out what will work best for him and work to accommodate it.
5. Don’t be afraid to explain. There’s a pretty good chance that along the way on your trip, someone will raise a question about your child’s behavior. Don’t be afraid to explain about autism. You’ll be raising awareness and potentially getting more understanding for your child.
6. Bring something calming. It’s important for many autistic children to have something that makes them feel secure when they’re in a new or overwhelming place like an airport. Give your child access to these items whenever they feel they need them.
7. Provide support. When you’re traveling it’s especially important to praise or reward your child for behaving well. Make sure your child knows what a great job he’s doing and provide constant reinforcement along your travels.
8. Enjoy the ride. Taking a trip with a child, autistic or not, can be an adventure to say the least. Aside from all the stress and planning don’t forget to simply take time to enjoy being with your child and seeing new things. That’s what traveling is all about.

Remember that even if you’re prepared unexpected things can still happen and your child may have the occasional meltdown. Don’t let that deter you from going places and allowing yourself and your child to see the world.

This post was contributed by Kathleen Baker, who writes about online nursing schools. She welcomes your feedback at

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