Traveling through a major airport such as O'Hare International
Airport can be an overwhelming sensory experience for anyone, let
alone someone who has an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
To make the trip from ticket counter, through security, on to the
gate and finally into the air easier for people on the autism
spectrum, The Autism Program of Illinois, The Hope Institute for
Children and Families, and Have Dreams created three Aviation
The kits lay out the steps involved in moving through an airport
in words and pictures.
Download the kits at http://accessibility.theautismprogram.org/guides.
When Nicole Korosa's parents offered to fly her and her boys,
one of whom has autism, to Florida for a visit, she thought, "I'm
not passing up this trip. I will deal with two-and-a-half hours of
a screaming kid."
But Nicholas, 7, didn't scream-not even going through the
security checkpoint at the airport. He became so engrossed in the
conveyor belt that he didn't even mind taking off his shoes. And he
loves airplanes, so he loved flying. It was the beach that freaked
him out-he doesn't like sand or sun or wearing sandals. "My dad
stayed with him a lot in the house," says the Homer Glen mom.
While experts have general ideas about where to consider
vacationing with a child on the autism spectrum, they all agree
that it can vary greatly from child to child. For example, at least
one expert recommended heading to the beach because it tends to be
a calmer destination than, say, Disney World.
Korosa, however, says that while Nicholas hated the beach, he
had a great time at Disney. He wants to go back, even though the
only ride he wanted to go on was the tea cups.
Julie Martin, executive director of By Your Side, a Burr
Ridge-based speech and language therapy center for children with
autism, notes that it's tough to predict what destination will work
for kids on the autism spectrum. In fact, she says, places that
work for kids with autism don't always work for kids with
Asperger's and vice versa.
It's important always to call ahead and talk with someone at the
destination-not just rely on Internet research-to ensure the place
can accommodate your child's needs.
With that caveat, here are a few destinations worth
investigating if you want to take a family vacation with a child
with an autism spectrum disorder.
1. Try a dude ranch. Some children with special
needs find it comforting to be around the huge animals, and several
dude ranches offer special programs for children with autism. For
example, Snow Mountain Ranch in northern Colorado, a resort-style
property operated by the YMCA of the Rockies, offers therapeutic
horseback riding programs and summer camps for children with
autism. Similarly, Tanque Verde Ranch in Tucson offers to tailor
programs for children with special needs.
2. Book a condo, house or suite. This is
Korosa's recommendation. Nicholas finds hotel rooms too confining.
But there are hotel chains that cater to families with special
needs children, such as the beautiful TradeWinds Resort in St. Pete
Beach, Fla. The resort has been named an autism-friendly business
by the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities. It offers a
social book online for families to review prior to their arrival,
has a gluten-free menu, and provides free hotel room safety kits,
including outlet covers, corner cushions and a hanging door
3. Visit during a less chaotic period. At the
Children's Museum of New Hampshire, that means going on the second
Saturday of the month for the "Exploring Our Way" program. The
museum is open from 10 a.m.-noon only for families with children on
the autism spectrum. If you set your sights bigger-an amusement
park, for example-go in the off-season or choose a smaller, calmer
park like Holiday World in Santa Claus, Ind.
4. Look for a place that offers special programs for
special needs visitors. In Utah, that includes the
National Ability Center in Park City, which offers summer camps
exclusively for children with autism and sports programs that allow
the whole family to learn and play together.
5. Consider Madison. The capital of Wisconsin
has a small town feel, but a plethora of autism-friendly
attractions and support programs, says Judy Frankel, public
relations manager for the city's visitor bureau and the mom of a
son with autism. The city has an array of offerings, from yoga
classes to a local theater that offers a program one Saturday a
month for kids with autism.
Cindy Richards is the mom of two who gets her muse from traveling the world, usually with kids in tow. She also writes for TravelingMom.com, where she also serves as editor.
See more of Cindy's stories here.
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