Autism + vacation = more stress than staying home. Well, sometimes. We met family in Ouray, CO this past weekend. We had a great time, but preparations were a forethought to make it so.
When you have a child with Autism, it’s especially important to plan your vacation. Be sure to read through all of the points, as I saved the most important one for last. 😉
Autism abilities differ in each person, so be sure to take into consideration your child and what they understand. Some children with Autism won’t understand when you begin talking about a vacation that’s far into the future, if this is true, you can begin talking about it a couple days before. So, on with the tips:
- Try to make your plans as concrete as possible in order to prevent as much unknown as possible. I know, plans fail, but with an Autistic child, routine is essential, so making a plan and sticking to it will help you make it through your vacation.
- Talk about what your vacation will be like. Talk about it often and be open to questions. If there are answers you don’t know, admit it and brain storm what you can do IF…
- As you approach a destination explain where you’re going and what you’ll be doing. This will help any child with their anxiety about the unknown.
- Draw or print out a map of where you’re going. When we take long trips I’ve drawn a map of where we’re going, and labeled the dates when we’re going to be there. I’ve done this for my daughter who doesn’t have Autism, as our son wouldn’t be able to understand something so complex.
- Take breaks during your trip. Let your kids get out and move.
- Consider your child’s sensory needs. This is a big one! Some children have high sensory needs and need lots of input, some don’t want much at all and avoid sensory stimuli. Even the children who have high sensory needs require time when their world is quiet. Be aware of noises, lights, bedding comfort, and other possible irritants.
On our last vacation a considerable amount of time was spent with family. I feel a tad bit bad, but we made our plans and anyone could join us if they wanted. We have to vacation this way or NO one will have fun. Jeremiah has high sensory needs, so we had to meet those needs each day if we wanted any calm (meaning avoiding crying, screaming, and intense jumping – yeah, we were on the third floor). About that jumping, I asked that we be put on the lower floor because I knew Jeremiah’s tendency to jump would irritate others, but the managements response was, “The floors are well insulated.” Well then, if you get a call at 6:30am, don’t complain to me.
There are certain activities that our family enjoys doing together, and take care of Jeremiah’s sensory needs. A couple of those are four-wheeling and swimming.
As for four-wheeling, I can only speak for our immediate family and the big smiles on my parents faces, but we had a BLAST! In this photo Jeremiah is doodling, it’s his “thing”. Some kids with Autism play with string, Jeremiah doodles on his magna doodle. It goes everywhere – obviously.
We travel to Ouray fairly often, so we know where the playsets are. Jeremiah loves swinging, so we spent time in between activities doing this while others were shopping downtown. Jeremiah was able to spend a little time walking the old-town Main Street, but not much, so this gave him another outlet to meet those sensory needs. Yes, he has HIGH sensory needs, and even more when in a new and different environment.
We also went swimming, which Jeremiah loves. Swimming meets many sensory needs for our children, and the more you can get them in the pool the quicker they’ll learn how to swim. Here you can read my post on 4 Reasons Why You Should Teach Your Autistic Child to Swim.
We took Jeremiah’s blankets and the movies he likes to help the condo feel more like home.
Overall we had a great time, but much planning went into making it an enjoyable vacation. We also try to be aware of what Jeremiah needs and what makes him comfortable. I hope this gives you ideas on what you can do on your next vacation.
What special things have you done for vacation to help your child adjust? How do vacations go with your Autistic child? Any other advice on vacationing you’d offer to parents?
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Grandpa had a great time. Planning does make a huge difference. Jeremiah seemed at home. Thanks for the good time Jeremiah!