6 tips on taking an Autistic child on vacation

taking an autistic child on vacation
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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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…
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Take breaks during your trip. Let your kids get out and move.
  6. 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.

doodleAs 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 jeremiah swimmingsensory 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.



Jeremiah comfy


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?

You can receive each post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, you can do this on the web version. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for more helpful information and links. Happy vacationing!


a parent getaway (adoption/foster)

An adoptive mom recently contacted me, asking what she should do about an upcoming missions trip and her young son. Her little guy is newly adopted, he has struggled with attachment issues, but is making some exceptional basic bonds with his new mom. This mother had volunteered to help cook, and act as a chaperon for this missions trip, and now she was feeling like she shouldn’t leave her son. She felt torn between going on this trip with her older children and being there for him. In her heart, she knew the answer, but wanted confirmation. After we talked, she was able to get her older daughter to take her place on the missions trip, and she still took her little guy. She was able to be there for her older children and have quiet time for her little guy when he needed it.

The question is often asked, should you leave your child while you go on vacation, a parent only getaway, or to a conference? This is a question that has a few facets to consider.

First, who is going and what is the purpose? If you are a single parent and need to get away to breathe, or you are married and need some time alone with your spouse, in my opinion it’s good to do this briefly on occasion. If you’re taking other children and are leaving a child with someone else, I don’t recommend doing so. For the child left behind, nothing good will come of leaving them. In fact, if you have made progress with them, it will likely get thrown in reverse. And if you haven’t bonded with your adopted or foster child, it’s still not a good idea. You may say, “But they ruin everything.” Remember they aren’t doing this because of you, and those things they do to make your life difficult stem from fear. They will push you to see if you will still love them. If you leave your child, it will cause fear, no matter what they may say.

Second, consider who they will stay with. My first choice is always someone the child knows really well. If you absolutely HAVE to go away, and you don’t have someone your child knows well, I would consider planning far in advance and get to know the respite care provider. Plan get togethers and play dates so you and your child get acquainted with them. If, for any reason you feel uncomfortable with a person watching your child, don’t leave your child with them.

Third, consider where your child is in the bonding process. If your child is recently showing signs of attachment, I wouldn’t suggest leaving them. They are in a critical stage of bonding and they need to depend on you and know you won’t leave. No matter what you say to your child, they will not trust that you’re coming back, and it will instill that fear I mentioned earlier.

If you have planned a getaway, there are some ways to help it go better. I recently heard a mom talk about sending her kids to their Dad’s house for the summer. She knew her children would have a difficult time being away from her, so she put her favorite t-shirt in a ziplock bag and sent it with them. She told them to take it out whenever they missed her. If you do this, I would suggest wearing it and putting it in the bag unwashed so it smells like you. Also make sure your child has their favorite stuffed animal and blankets when you leave. Sometimes kids who have been moved around don’t have specific favorite items, but find something that they seem to like.

The Attachment and Trauma Network had a webinar on “Getting Your Ducks in a Row Before You Go,” that offered some excellent tips on helping your child handle your absence. Note: Their focus was a parent going to a conference, but their tips can be used for any getaway that a parent is going on. Here is a link to their printout of ideas: Attachment & Trauma Network 

Here is a summary of a few suggestions they expound upon:

  • Scheduled phone calls or Skype/Facetime – (I suggest calling every day.)
  • Keeping continuity with their every day routines.
  • If your child understands rewards (remember they won’t until they have bonded some) and will work for them, their caregiver can reward them each day. Don’t set the standards too high.
  • A calendar marked with the day you leave and the day you return. (A couple months ago, we went on a bi-yearly 🙂 weekend away. We had told our daughter, Payton, that we’d be gone two nights and three days. When we picked her up at Grandma’s house, she put her hands on her hips and said, “You said you’d be gone two days, and that was three.” Well, if we’d given her a calendar that probably wouldn’t have been an issue.)

I hope these tips help you and your family through the transitions and fears of spending time away from each other. Are there any additional ideas that helped your family when you prepared to leave, and while you were away?

tips for a better summer vacation (adoption/Autism)


Summer vacations are here, and maybe you’re excited about the fast approaching fun, or maybe you’re apprehensive about it going awry. No matter where you stand, it’s important to have understanding of your child, and a plan in your suitcase before you go.

Before you go on your trip, PLAN, PLAN, PLAN, and TALK, TALK, TALK with your kids about what you’ll be doing. Only share an overview of what your new adventure will entail, try not to share anything that might not come to fruition. We know plans get made and plans fall through, but the same idea is true as when you’re at home, stick to your word as much as possible. Our hurting children aren’t able to switch modes quickly when something doesn’t go as expected, so it’s beneficial to have a Plan A, and a Plan B so they can adjust to any changes more smoothly.

For our last two vacations, I made a map of the states we were traveling to and marked the points we would travel to on the map so our daughter could see the plan. This visual took away some of the anxiety of going to a new place. Each point had a day of the week attached to it, so she knew where we would be while we were gone. Before we left we talked about the schedule often, and if she had questions we were open to listening and answering as best we could.

You will want to consider how many special things are included in a getaway; going out to eat, extra attention from family and friends, new activities, and a plethora of adventures that aren’t part of our child’s every day routine. I don’t know how your children are, but my daughter (you can see her diagnosis here)* used to have a terrible time with special things. Special things means anything out of the ordinary day to day. This may be one of the reasons your child acts out during your vacation.

Be aware that leaving home will create anxiety in many of our children. If your child is acting out, think of reasons why this may be. Have they traveled before? Have they stayed in a hotel before? If you adopted internationally, the last time they were in a hotel may have been when you brought them home, and this may have been exciting for you, but alarming to them. No matter where your child came from, they may feel unsure about leaving home and thoughts of abandonment might fill their mind, or they may believe you are taking them to someone else. They are often unable to express these feelings, and no matter how much you say it, they may not trust you. Reassure them anyway.

Most importantly, remember most behaviors are communication (I will have more about this in my next post). Our children are acting out because they have something to say or they feel a certain way, but they don’t know how to express it with words.

moveWhile on vacation give your children plenty of opportunities to be active. If they are bouncing off the walls and bed in a hotel room or at a family members house, they may be in serious need of sensory stimulation. Go do something!

On our last trip to South Dakota, we grabbed lunch at a McDonald’s, thinking the kids could release some of their energy that had been pent up for hours in a car. The pre-lunch playtime quickly went sour beginning with the stench of mildew and stinky feet that hit me when I opened the door to the playland. Then Jeremiah (has Autism) only wanted to snatch food from everyone’s table, completely oblivious that those fries weren’t ours. I grabbed Jeremiah, asked Payton to get her shoes on, and headed out the door. On my way out, I shouted to my husband, who was getting drinks after ordering, that I was leaving, and Payton was in the play area. (This was our second stop for lunch, the first had been a Subway, and upon entering we found it packed with people and we had a boy that would not sit for any amount of time.) Justin arrived at the car with a crying girl (who was particularly sad about leaving her best friend, who she had known for a maximum of seven minutes) and some food. I used the GPS (love that thing) to find a park nearby. BEST THING WE DID! Duh. All this to say, break up your trip if you’re driving and play at a park, or let them run around in a safe area.

One of our main prerequisites for hotels was a pool. Every night the kids swam for two hours. I honestly don’t know what we would have done without it. Having a child with Autism means that he doesn’t go to sleep easily. I mean, even with swimming, he didn’t fall asleep until 11:30 EVERY NIGHT. Yes, we were a tired bunch! Swimming is especially beneficial for both Autistic children and adopted children.

If your child understands rewards (until a child has created some bond with their caregiver, rewards and consequences mean nothing), you can reward good behavior while traveling. Before one vacation we went to the Dollar Store and purchased items that could be used in the hotel room, car, or pool. This was a good incentive. On our first trip this didn’t work so well, because our daughter hadn’t bonded enough, but this year she did really well. We have also used money on past vacations as a reward. We gave her $1 each day that she did well, and she was able to spend it at souvenir shops (of course we added more so she could get something more than a lollipop). She understands the concept of money so this worked with her, and is something you can use with older children.

These are a few ideas that may bring a little more peace to your trip, I hope they help you have a better summer vacation. Have fun, and try to relax. 🙂

*I only write about my children’s diagnosis to better help those families who are struggling on a day to day basis.

Breckenridge, CO

Breckenridge, CO

This past weekend we met my family in Breckenridge for the weekend.

When we arrived in town we drove under the gondolas that were headed up the ski slopes, all devoid of snow of course. We told Payton to look up. What she saw was kids. From then on all she cared about doing was, “Ride with kids in sky.” We did “ride with kids in sky” on the gondola and took a fast ride down the Alpine Slide. (An Alpine Slide is a cemented slide in which you ride down on sleds with wheels.) You can control your speed with a lever, which is attached to rubber brakes. Justin wasn’t too fond of that aspect, ironically he was stuck behind a teenage boy the entire trip down. I just figure it was God’s protection shining down on my daughter who was on the sled with him. One trip was enough for us all, and maybe even too much at that. At a steep $15 a pop (to ride down a hill on a plastic sled), we were quickly reminded that we were in the ski resort town of Breckenridge, CO. There was not a good deal to be had in sight.

Breckenridge, CO

We spent time in the condo relaxing, enjoying the view of the mountaintops, and playing with the kids. We spent too much time eating mom’s fabulous fare. We strolled in and out of the shops along Main Street, where I found the most delicious cookies! These cookies brought back memories of Mrs. Fields cookie shop that used to be located in the Paradise Valley Mall in Phoenix. Those good ole college days when I could down two large chocolate chip cookies dipped in milk chocolate and gain nary a pound. The cookies at the Breckenridge cookie shop would have been competition.

While downtown we bought Jeremiah a shirt that says, “I still live with my parents.” =) Just wanted everyone to know he hasn’t grown up and moved out yet.

If you stuck with it long enough, thanks for reading about our short adventure to the top of the mountain. Until next time….