We all need a break. Vacations can either give us that
well-deserved down time or they can be stressful and disastrous.
Here are some tips from Shelly McLaughlin of Pathfinders for Autism to consider when
planning your getaway:
1. Sensory issues don't take a vacation. The
smells that bother your child, the noises that scare him, the
textures that annoy him are all coming with him on vacation. Make a
list of the sensory issues that impact your child the most and
cross-reference them with the vacation's description. You simply
may have to forgo the beach if your child can't tolerate the
feeling of sand.
2. Think location, location, location. Can your
child handle crowds and noise? What about the aromas of a city
known for its cuisine? Can your child walk for long distances?
Consider the environment of your vacation spot in the same manner
you evaluate your home and school settings.
3. When to travel. You may want to consider
non-peak times for lower rates and smaller crowds. Timing and
weather may play a greater role for some kids. If your child is
afraid of thunderstorms, a late summer/early fall trip to Florida
could be terrifying. If your child becomes agitated by heat and
sweat, travel north or wait for a cooler month.
4. Your home away from home. Look for the same
safety standards you need in your own home: locks on doors and
windows, cabinets with sharp objects, etc. Pools and fences may be
of special concern if your child tends to wander or run away.
5. Take a sitter or other caregiver. Find a
responsible teenager who would love the chance to visit a vacation
spot while getting paid.
6. Travel services for special needs. Check out
pathfindersforautism.org for vacation packages
that cater to people with disabilities.
7. Create a daily planner. We don't exactly
have "go with the flow" kind of kids. You may be able to pre-empt
some meltdowns simply by making the day predictable. Encourage your
child to make some suggestions for activities and include them on a
visual schedule. Make sure you include "free time."
8. Consider your mode of transportation. If
you're flying, keep in mind that the very back of the plane is
noisy. If your child has a difficult time sitting still, talk to
the flight attendants ahead of time to let them know that your
child may do better if allowed to walk the aisle whenever the
fasten seatbelt sign is off. Also, prepare your child for the
security process at the airport. Check out an online Air Travel
Guide for Children with Autism at
9. Investigate services and amenities. Look
online or call ahead of time for special offers, services and
accommodations available for people with disabilities. Some places,
like Disney, require a doctor's note to access the special
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