Posts Tagged ‘travel autism’

How to be Travel- Savvy with a Child with Autism

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013
 

Discovery

Summer is coming and many of you are wondering if travel is an option for your family. Those long lines, the cramped spaces, the hustle and bustle of way too many stressed out people, and those looks you get from strangers…

How can you take your child with Autism on a family trip and make it a positive experience for all?

After talking with many parents about traveling with their child with Autism, we have collected some ideas that will help you become travel- savvy for vacations with your child with Autism.

 

Pack your gadgets:

  • Noise canceling headphones are great for when the environment gets loud and crazy on the plane, in an amusement park, a restaurant, etc. Bring them with you everywhere and train your child to ask for them. If you haven’t used headphones before, have your child practice wearing them before your trip.
  • Airplane travel harnesses are like a car seat and can provide stability and safety for a child on an airplane. There are also travel harnesses for the car that act as a car seat. You can use this lighter and packable harness for jumping into cabs or for an older child with autism who is not ready to travel without a car seat.
  • Bring your child’s favorite reinforcers, both electronic and not electronic. During landing and take off in a plane, you will not be able to use your electronic devices, so bring along some other toys as back up.
 

Practice:

  • Almost all airports are now offering mock-security and boarding practice for people who find the airport travel experience too stressful. Call your nearby airport and set up a time to do this with your family. You can practice this multiple times and with your gadgets. Bring everything you would need for the actual experience!
  • Create a visual schedule and bring it with you wherever you go, including the airport and the amusement parks. You could have a schedule for every day of your vacation and for every airplane or vehicle you board. A schedule could include leaving and returning to a hotel room, when to eat, when to get ready for bed, when to stand in line, how many activities you plan to do and which places you plan to go, relaxation time, etc! The possibilities are countless! Refer back to your schedule with your child often so that your child is reminded of what to expect.
 

Plan ahead:

  • Call the airline ahead of time and make sure to let them know you are traveling with a child with Autism. Ask them how they can make your experience easier. You never know what resources they’ll provide you with.
  • Call ahead and make sure your family can sit together. One family we spoke to had a family member sit on both sides of their child and in front in case their child needed to kick or move around more in their seat.
  • Call or visit ‘guest relations’ at each amusement park or activity you do. Most places will provide your family with passes to skip lines.
  • Chances are you will have to wait in at least one long line, regardless of how many passes you can get. Plan ahead and have something for your child to do in these lines, whether it is a book, listening to music, wearing the noise canceling headphones, playing a game on an iPad, etc.
  • Choose activities and vacations that incorporate a topic your child enjoys. One mother said her child loved sea animals, so she took him to Sea World.
 

Orient yourself:

  • Get your family excited about your adventure while at the same time orienting your child with Autism with what to expect. Watch movies about your target destination or an activity you will do while there. If you’re going to Disney Land, watch Disney movies and play Disney games. One mother, who brought her child to Sea World, spent a couple months having her child play with aquarium toys and watch sea-life videos.
 

Safety & Awareness:

  • There are a lot of people who still do not know what Autism is or how to identify it. Chances are you will encounter a stranger who does not understand your child’s behaviors and needs. It is okay to educate and bring awareness to these people. If you find yourself in a situation where it is necessary to do so, explain clearly to the person that your child has Autism. Maybe even pack a few brochures about what Autism is and let them research Autism on their own. Several parents have suggested dressing their children in vibrant t-shirts that say “I have Autism.” Bright t-shirts would also help to identify your child if you become separated from each other.
  • Anything can happen on vacation so make sure that your child has identification and contact info for you in case you get separated.
 

Relax:

  • Even the traveler experts know that making room for relaxation time makes vacation much better! Don’t ware yourself out. Allow your family time to sit in the hotel and relax while you gear up for the next adventure.
 

Resources:

 

Thomas Goes to DisneyLand!

Sunday, June 2nd, 2013
 

Read about one parent’s personal experience traveling to Disney Land with her autistic child:

 

My family went to DisneyLand in California during Spring Break and my son, Thomas, had a wonderful time!  We were nervous about the trip as Los Angeles and Disneyland are very crowded places with many unexpected events, and we knew Thomas did not like to get on airplanes.  But Thomas handled everything better than we thought! I would like to share with you what I think is very helpful for kids like Thomas to have a great time at Disneyland or any theme park.

We called American Airline ahead of time to reserve our seats to make sure we all were seated together.  Our flights were full both ways and the agent said they could not assign seats until the day of the trip and that there was still no guarantee we would be together.  I told the agent that Thomas was autistic and we really needed to sit together.  Right away the agent transferred me to the ‘Special Assistance’ department that was able to assign seating for us.

At the gate I requested we be pre-boarded to reduce Thomas’s anxiety. Then we were able to board the plane earlier than most of the passengers to get Thomas settled down.

On the plane Thomas requested our noise-reducing Bose headphones and wore them the entire flight. The headphones really reduced the noise on the plane and made him feel secure. I also had his favorite toys, an iPhone and iPad, to keep him occupied.  During take off and landing when we were not allowed to use electronic devices, I had back up toys.

When we entered Disneyland, Lego Land, and Universal Studios, we went to ‘Guest Relations’, which is normally right inside the entrance.  All of these parks normally will give you ‘guest with special assistance’ passes, which will reduce the time you have to wait in line to enter certain rides and attractions.  This was a huge help, especially at Disneyland where the wait time could be one to two hours long.  The less time Thomas had to wait in line, the less anxiety he had.  He ended up getting on more rides than I ever expected.  For the first time, he also got on some of the rides all by himself!  He has never done that before. We use to always have to be with him on the ride or he would not go.  During this trip, there were still some rides he would not go on, but that was completely okay!

We loaded all of his favorite games on an iPhone so he had something to do while waiting in lines and for special events (i.e. parades and a firework show). This kept his anxiety level down. We also had the noise reduction earphones with us at all times.  Thomas used the headphones on most of the rides, during parades, and the fireworks show, when the environment got really loud.

Overall, this was a very positive experience for us!

— Thomas’s Mom

 

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