Its summer, school is out and it’s the perfect time for a family get-away! It doesn’t matter if you are planning a full-fledged vacation or a weekend retreat, time away with your family creates memories, teaches your children about new places, introduces them to new people and allows them to explore and discover new things.
For many, vacation time is an exciting time, but for a child that has been diagnosed with autism, it can be an unsettling time. Unfortunately, some children on the spectrum have a difficult time with new places, people and schedules; so here are some great tips to help make your family vacation a more enjoyable one.
It is important to make sure you prepare your child who has been diagnosed with autism for a new adventure. When headed to unfamiliar places, showing our child a brochure, website, or book about the locations you will be visiting will get them prepared and excited for what they will be seeing and doing. Show them your hotel, the room you booked, the types of activities the hotel offers or tours you want to take them on. Show them pictures of the local foods etc. It is also important (if you are flying to a destination), to prepare them for the plane ride. It’s great to show your child on the spectrum pictures of planes (both the interior and exterior), and even take them to the airport to watch the planes land and take off).
Practicing using your inside voice, keeping your seatbelt on and other securities processes and etiquette will also ensure a smooth flight.
Involve your kids in the planning process. Let them pick an activity they want to do, allow them to help while you pack their suitcase or bag and use this opportunity to disc topics like what the weather will be like, if it’s a casual trip, if there will be an event to dress up for etc. Also let your child pack their own bag of toys, games and activity books that they will enjoy either in the car or on the plane so that they are occupied during long travel times, delays or when unexpected situations come up.
Many children who have been diagnosed with autism have a hard time when schedules shift or change. Although you may not be able to keep their schedule exactly the way it is at home, try to figure out a way to offer them some sort of consistent schedule while away. Creating a written or picture schedule for your trip can help your child on the spectrum transition, also verbal reminders work wonderfully at notifying your child of schedule changes. By making sure your child has some sort of consistency while you are away, you allow for a less stressful, more relaxing vacation.
It is important to make time to relax. Many times families feel that they need to overschedule their activities while on vacation. In between running from location to location try to plan some downtime to rest, play games, read or nap with your child. Downtime will reenergize your child on the spectrum and will allow them to process each activity and event.
Don’t forget to talk to your child on the spectrum about the things you have done together as a family, while you were away. Take lots of pictures and even allow your child to take pictures of things that they like and want to remember. Buy your child a journal before the trip and encourage them to write about each day during down time. Have them add their ticket stubs, images, brochures etc. in the journal as well so that they can look back at it any time and remember the fun they had. By talking about your trip and looking at images of the places you went, the people you met and the things you saw, you give your child the opportunity to remember their experiences.
Family vacations are meant to be fun, so now that you know how to prepare your child for what to expect, go enjoy your family vacation and travel safe! We wish you all a very happy and safe summer, filled with fun times and great memories.