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If you’re visiting somewhere your child has never been, help him/her understand what to expect by showing them pictures and videos of the location. It can also be helpful to include images of who is going on the trip, especially if extended family or friends will join you. Finally, be sure to show your child what kind of activities they’ll participate in while they’re on vacation. If it’s possible, practice some of those activities before you leave.
As you’re planning your vacation, reach out to hotels, museums, theme parks, and other attractions to ask if they provide accommodations for children with autism. For many family-friendly vacation locations, you may be able to get special passes that allow you to skip long lines, which can be distressing for many children with ASD.
Navigating the airport can be a headache for all travelers, but it can be especially stressful for children with autism. To help alleviate some of that stress, the Arc’s Wings for Autism® program provides a “rehearsal” of airport travel, including checking in, going through security, and boarding the plan. In addition to practicing airport routines, reach out to TSA Cares 72 hours before your departure. They’ll assist you with any concerns and help your family get through security lines as easily as possible.
Once you make it on the plane, have a variety of activities to keep your child busy. Providing favorite activities, like coloring books, books, movies, and toys will help keep your child occupied and entertained throughout the flight. Packing some favorite foods and snacks can also comfort your child and keep them full, especially if you have a long travel day ahead. Don’t forget to pack hard candy or gum so they can pop their ears as the plane descends.
Staying in an unfamiliar hotel can be stressful for children with autism. To make your home-away-from-home more comfortable, bring some bedding or blankets from home and make up your child’s bed with them. Consider bringing your own toiletries as well. While most hotels provide soap, shampoo, and lotion, your child may be happier using items with familiar textures and scents.
Wandering off is a common issue for children with autism, especially in unfamiliar places. To keep your child safe if they wander too far, create an identification card with your child’s name, their diagnosis, and your cell number. You may need to get creative with where to place the ID badge so it doesn’t become uncomfortable for your child. Try pinning the card to your child’s shirt, or make it into a sticker, bracelet, or necklace. Before you leave for your vacation, practice wearing the ID to make sure your child is comfortable with its placement.
While you should plan plenty of activities that interest your child, make sure not to overload each day with too many attractions. Long days on-the-go are a recipe for a meltdown, so be sure to plan for downtime at the hotel and be prepared to change your plans if your child needs a break.
With the right preparation, traveling with a child with autism can become less stressful for your entire family. For additional support preparing your child to travel, contact Trumpet Behavioral Health today.