Autism and Travel: Making the Most of Your Vacation Time
Summer is here and I imagine you all are ready to hit the road and have a change of scenery like me. If you are also like me, you may have a child with autism which can make travel a bit more… complicated.
I am a single mom with an 11 year old daughter who has autism; I have been traveling alone with my daughter since she was a few months old. My daughter’s autism was fairly apparent within the first two years of her life, meaning we were having a lot of emotional difficulties with her without any sort of diagnosis (which did not happen until she was 5 years old). Some of the issues I have encountered while traveling with my daughter include crying spells, time confusion (not grasping time and then becoming upset about it), becoming overwhelmed with too many activities, and difficulty sleeping in a new place. Autism looks different for every neuro-divergent person so please understand that I am sharing from the perspective of my experience with my child.
Here are some things I have done to help travel be more enjoyable for all of us.
Discussing travel plans early and often. Surprise trips completely go against the anchoring and consistency that many autistic individuals need. By talking about the trip and going over planned activities you not only allow your child to feel included, but they are also able to be prepared for the change in their routine.
Plan breaks/quiet time. Not only can this be beneficial for your child, but traveling can be a bit stressful for parents as well. Recognize that if you are going to spend the day at a theme park, then the evening will need to include rest and peace. It is completely normal to veg out on the tablet or hotel cable especially after a long day. Also be mindful of needed breaks during the day; even 10 minutes of not engaging can make a difference.
Bring the comfort of home. Does your kid have a particular blanket/pillow/stuffed animal/LEGO figurine that they must have at all times? Well remember to pack it! And while you are at it, remember to bring it home with you (ever frantically call a hotel for a forgotten blanket? Just me…?).
Remember medicines and special snacks. If your child is on medication or vitamins it is important to bring those and if there are dietary restrictions or preferences grab those as well.
Not all travel is out of the question when your kid is neuro-divergent and I would even encourage you all to experience that with them. One of my favorite things about traveling with my daughter is that she is an expert at mapping things out; she can travel somewhere once and totally remember how to get there again. If you are struggling as a parent we offer therapy that is supportive of parents with autistic children, we also specialize in working with individuals on the spectrum.
At Mind Works Counseling Services, we understand Autism. We provide services for adults and adolescents with Autism and we also provide support of parents of children on the spectrum.
Learn more about the Autism Counseling services we offer.
Contact us to schedule an appointment or to let us answer any questions you may have.