Traveling is an exciting way to explore the world and different cultures. But, getting from one place to another can be stressful. This is especially true for children, and kids on the autism spectrum can have a tough time adjusting to a new experience. For children with autism, travel can also mean venturing through unfamiliar routines and adjusting to stressful, chaotic situations. Luckily, there are some things you can do before and during your travels to make the process easier for your child. Here are some tips for traveling with children on the autism spectrum.
Plan Ahead of Time
It is good to plan your vacation for when destinations are most easily accessible and peaceful. Crowded areas and long lines can make children incredibly anxious and lead to meltdowns, so go outside of peak hours and during the off-season, if possible. When in public places, such as airports or train stations, keep a mental note of the entrances, and have a backup plan for a discrete exit if needed. It is important to give your child a quiet, calm space to de-stress to prevent a meltdown.
Use Social Stories
You can reduce some of your child’s stress or fears by using social stories to prepare for unfamiliar or challenging changes. In the weeks leading up to your trip, create a picture or word social story with your child that goes over the travel process. Include pictures and descriptions of how you will get there, what kind of people you will meet, how to behave in the airport, train, or car, and so on. Invite your child to make the social story with you to become more comfortable with the preparations.
Pack with Intention
When packing for your trip, consider what comfort items are already helpful for your child and bring them. Pack favorite snacks and drinks and keep them handy for long train rides and flights. It’s better to have food that you know your child will like in case the food being served is not preferred. Along with extra food, pack extra clothes in your carry-on baggage in case of mishaps. Noise-canceling headphones, a tablet or DVD player, and a beloved toy from home are also great things to bring to help your child cope with sensory sensitivities.
During the Trip
Once you have made it to your destination, be sure to include some activities that you know your child will enjoy. But, plan to limit activities to a manageable number per day to make time for breaks. Also, it is good to keep morning and bedtime routines as consistent as possible to how they usually work when at home. Following these tips will ensure an enjoyable and tranquil vacation for the whole family.
The Connections Therapy Center
The Connections Therapy Center serves families of children and adolescents with disabilities and special needs. We are a team of experts in the fields of pediatric speech, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, and behavioral sciences. As a team, we offer intensive hands-on therapy for children and adolescents, as well as informative and useful resources for families. If you are interested in learning more about what we can do to help your family, visit us online or give us a call at (301) 577-4333. Want to get more information on how to help your child thrive? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest.