Tips to Consider before for going on a Vacation with Kids Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder
Everybody loves to travel. Stepping away and making trips to your favorite vacation spot for a weekend with your family is a great way to escape the stress of everyday life. However, for families who have children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), the thought of a vacation may evoke feelings of anxiety and fear.
Traveling with children on the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may seem difficult, but when you plan your vacations ahead of time and with care, they can be an absolute treat and a great way to make stronger familial bonds.
Here are a few tips to make your vacation a pleasurable one for your child and the entire family.
Choose an ideal destination for your child:
Encourage your children to participate actively in the planning process and evaluate their current interests, attention span, sensory processing/information-processing abilities, and relate it to your upcoming trip. Choose a place where your child would still get to do activities that he/she typically likes. For example, if your child loves amusement parks, try taking her to Disneyland, if your child loves playing with water, consider taking him to the beach. Make sure you’re not overwhelming your child by involving him in too many activities, as this would result in stressing out not just your child, but the rest of the family as well.
Tip: We recommend that you involve your child in research and planning, right from the start, even while you’re scouting destinations. This allows your child enough time and room to mentally prepare for the upcoming vacation.
Arrange proper identification for your child:
Parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder are often struggling to manage their child’s wandering and whereabouts. Nearly half of children with autism spectrum disorder tend to wander or run off, causing tremendous concern to parents.
Here are a few identification tools you can use
Tracking devices: Choose a suitable device that matches your child’s requirement and have her wear every time you are out.
Personal IDs: Use medical IDs for personal identification. These should include information about your child, address, and phone number. Create a few handouts to give out, if necessary - these handouts should contain your address and phone number.
Predict your child’s needs:
Parents can typically anticipate their child’s needs without them having to ask for it. However, this becomes even more necessary when dealing with children with ASD. This is because children with ASD typically struggle to accept changes in their routine, and a vacation is quite a divergence from their usual schedule. This could lead to meltdowns and anxiety attacks. To avoid such incidents from happening when traveling, call your airline in advance to check for delays. This gives you enough time to make special accommodations, pre-alert your child of security lines, etc.
Tip: Plan every angle of the trip from your child’s perspective.
Prepare a checklist of essentials:
Prepare a checklist with your child so you leave behind nothing that is important to your child. Always have reinforcements handy to reward your child for their good behavior. You can use soothers such as MP3 players or a piece of cloth, string, a toy, etc. that usually keeps your children calm. Pack their favorite snacks, toys, books and assistive communication tools, while your child is watching, so they can alert you in case you’re missing something.
Tip: Keep in mind your child's daily routine and bring along necessities that help him/her get through the day.
Enact vacation scenarios with your child:
Preparations for an upcoming trip should start well in advance of the trip. We recommend starting your groundwork at least 2-3 months before the vacation. Talk about the trip with your child every day by creating sequential picture stories of events planned and provide simple captions for each picture. Role-playing is one of the best ways to help children understand what they can expect to see while on vacation.
Tip: Have a meaningful conversation about the trip with your child every day till the vacation begins. This helps relieve stress and reduces problematic behaviors during the vacation.
For more information regarding sensory therapy, cognitive skills, behavioral therapy, developmental disorders, and early intervention, please contact Stepping Stones Center. We emphasize on acquiring new and appropriate behaviors, while also working on helping the child achieve developmentally age-appropriate milestones through evidence-based practices.