Long Vacations and Autism – Part Four

After our latest vacation, I came up with some advice about how to take a long vacation with your child with autism.

What advice can I give?

First of all, I tried an experiment with my son—that almost backfired on me.

My son still adores his comfort toy, a stuffed dog that he sleeps with.

I had been talking to him for a while about how he really needs to put “doggie” away. He’s a big boy now and maybe he no longer needs a comfort toy.

We discussed leaving doggie home during our upcoming summer trip, but I left the final decision up to him. He decided that doggie would be safer if we left him at home, less chance of losing him and/or having him “injured” in some way.

My son was confident with his decision. He told me he would be fine.

Well, that very first night, it had suddenly hit my son that he didn’t have his comfort toy at night time for the first time in his life.

He got upset.

We sat up and talked about it for a while. He finally calmed down, and the issue of doggie wasn’t brought up again throughout the entire trip.

He slept fine and seemed to be okay with doggie after that first night.

I guess my advice first piece of advice would be to NOT try to cut out a habit like a comfort toy while on vacation. I probably shouldn’t have pushed it, even though he was fine for the rest of the trip.

What else would I suggest?

Besides your child’s comfort toy, bring his/her favorite things to do (if there are things that travel well). For my son, this meant his smartphone and his iPad.

When he was younger, we brought his “small cars,” his toy airplanes, his Titanic books, and his DVD player. Those were some of the items that had to come on vacation with us.

Third, when it comes to food, our son has a bit of a limited diet, but not extremely restrictive. He’ll eat anything pizza, for example. When in danger of not having a well-planned meal while away, pizza is always the safe fall back.

With that in mind, we didn’t have to go too crazy with bringing along all of his food choices.

I’d thinking that breakfast was the most challenging. So, for the last few years, I’ve made sure to travel with my son’s favorite oatmeal. So, at least, he’d have something to eat for breakfast.

Fourth, if traveling by car only, definitely try to fit a scooter or small bike in the car, if it’s something your child uses to regulate his/her body.

What’s my overall advice?

Most of all, talk to your child about the upcoming trip well in advance of being on the road.

*If traveling by air, talk to your child about how they’re going to have to sit still for long periods of time.

*Let them know that they may have to deal with long lines at amusements parks or restaurants.

*If staying with friends or family, let them know that other people may have different rules about their house. They’re going to have to respect the homes of other people.

*If staying in a hotel, let them know that this is property owned by a business and you’re only “borrowing” it for a night or two.

*Let your child know that they may be meeting lots of new people and seeing lots of new places. This experience is meant to be exciting and interesting.

This is not their usual routine. But, Mommy and Daddy would like them to practice flexibility.

*If you have a reward system, I would encourage you use it. Give your child a reward if he/she makes it through a short trip without a meltdown. Or, let them have an extra twenty minutes on their device if they get through a family function.

Communicate with your child. But, also remember your own flexibility.

For example, on our trip my son wanted to stand behind our seats at three of the baseball games we attended. He’s twelve and never been a wanderer, so I instructed him where he can stay, and allowed him to stand. He didn’t wander and even came back to sit with me a few times.

He earned my trust while regulating his body in an overstimulating environment.

Overall, our trip and our experience was excellent. I’m so happy I did it, and I look forward to more opportunities for my son and my family.

More on Kimberly Kaplan:
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