Traveling with children can be daunting, and even more so when you travel with a child who is autistic and requires organised structure. Venturing out into unfamiliar surroundings can increase their levels of anxiety, how you prepare your child depends on their age and how their autism affects them. Below are some suggestions, however please adapt them for your own child's needs and level of ability.
Remember Practice! Practice! Practice!
Travelling with your child Top Tips
Choose the Best Destination for Your Child
Very often autistic young people enjoy going back to the same places they know and feel safe. This is fine, however encourage them at times to try somewhere new, they can otherwise become stuck. This will need extra preparation, consider where you are going, what you are planning to do, when (timings) and whether something may have an impact on your young person. What would work best for them?
Plan and Prepare – Make it Visual
Consider putting together a social story, with pictures and information. Please be careful not to make this too concrete with times, where you might eat and what you might do and think about the weather. Use words like ‘might’ ‘try’ ‘sometimes’. Do get them involved in putting this together. Use the web as a good tool with showing and sharing. Involve them as part of the plans and give them some choices.
Prepare Proper Identification
Some places are very good at allowing autistic people to fast track through certain queues – Theme Parks, Airports etc. Do some research before you leave and see what information they require. Some theme parks are requesting a letter from your doctor / school explaining why they are unable to wait in a queue.
Consider the following:
Autism is a hidden condition and sometimes it helps for others to see and understand. However, this is a personal choice and some young people may not be comfortable with this so do check with them first.
- Wearing a t–shirt
- Lanyard – Airports
- Autism Alert Card The aim of the Berkshire Autism Alert Card scheme is to provide a simple way for people living with autism to quickly and easily explain their condition to others, giving cardholders more confidence to go out and about
Pack the Essentials...and Some Distractions
Always pack a bag of tools to support the young person to relax.
Wipes – for those who never like messy hands or face
Snacks – to avoid Hangry!
Fiddle toys – To stay relaxed, focused and distracted
Ear defenders / Headphones – Some autistic people can find music very soothing. Others will use these as noise cancelling to help them cope with a noisy environment.
Hoodies – Again good for reducing the environment around them
A backback – Some autistic children like to be waited down. It helps them to feel grounded. So carrying a backpack with their favourite things can also help.
Books, gadgets, colouring pens to keep them focused at times when they may have to sit down for long periods of times
Allow time for breaks – quiet safe places
Depending where you are going and what you are doing, sometimes young people can become overwhelmed and become distressed. Please build this into plans. Is there a safe place they can be taken for a while, away from the busy noisy environment? Who will take your child and if you have other children who will stay with them. This could be another room, a quiet corner, sat under a tree, a little walk. Remember to use your Low Arousal Approach at these times (attachment)
Have Fun and Enjoy