Hi, I’m Craig Kendall, the author of The Asperger’s Syndrome Survival Guide. In today’s issue we will discuss…
Travel Tips for Children with Asperger’s Syndrome
If there is one thing that children with Asperger’s syndrome like, it’s routine and predictability. But traveling shakes up the routine no matter how you look at it. Not only that, but there are the sensory issues that go along with it. Traveling is hard for many on the autism spectrum, from Dustin Hoffman’s character in Rain Man to so many others. Here are some ideas that may help you to think about to make traveling with a child with Asperger’s syndrome easier.
1. Pre-trip Preparation for a Child with Asperger’s Syndrome
If you have a child with Asperger’s syndrome, make sure he or she is well prepared for what is going to happen next. A well prepared child is a much more contented child. Make sure you give your child plenty of notice of the trip (several weeks depending on complexity of trip and age of child). Write a social story book to show your child exactly what you will be doing…this is a great idea for children with Asperger’s syndrome and many parents swear by it. Explain to him or her everything that will be happening – they need a mental map of it.
Have a written…and as detailed as possible…itinerary that they can follow. If they will be flying ensure to emphasize to your child that there can often be delays flying and to be prepared for the unexpected.
If you have pictures of where you are going, whether it’s a family member’s house, Disney Land, or what have you, show them to your child with Asperger’s syndrome several times before you go. Most children with Asperger’s syndrome are very visual. Visual images are very helpful for those on the autism spectrum to plan what happens next.
2. Mental Stimulation for Children with Asperger’s Syndrome
There are few things more important than making sure you have an arsenal of items to keep your child with Asperger’s syndrome during busy during downtime. Kids on the autism spectrum are usually not patient, and unstructured downtime can often cause meltdowns and other problems.
If it’s a long car trip, there are many things you can do. A portable game console of some sort or a portable DVD player is a godsend for most families (these can work in the air as well.) Music, fidget toys like pipe cleaners, and games you can play without any props such as”20 Questions” or word games like Ghost can also work well.
Of course, if you’re in the car, you might as well make the best of the scenery and play the license plate game (who can name the most states) or the ABC game (you have to find every letter of the alphabet in order on either signs or license plates).
Noise blocking headphones are good for the airport and plane, and playing soothing music is all the better. Make sure you take food from home so that you can be assured of your child finding something they like to eat. Relying on overpriced airports or highway rest stops is never a good idea.
3. Other Quick Tips for Making Travel More Pleasant
- If you are staying in a hotel, call ahead and ask for a quiet room – not near the ice maker or stairwell. Ask for adjoining rooms for older kids who want their own room. Look at pictures of the hotel ahead of time online.
- If you are flying, you might want to call ahead and ask about bulkhead seats or the last row of seats. This will give you more room for your child and yourself but also distance you from people who may be upset with your child’s behaviors, such as rocking in the seat.
- Identification – Make sure your child has identification on them at all times with a phone number to call in case you get separated. Also, make sure to carry a recent picture of them for the same reason.
- Request a wheelchair at the airport if you think there will be any trouble with your child moving quickly enough to a connecting gate, even if your child has no trouble walking. It’s still a disability accommodation.
- Try going to a child friendly place like Disney World for a vacation, or another smaller theme park. Disney has extensive programs for kids with autism, including a Fast Pass which cuts out most waiting in lines and other accommodations. Some other theme parks do as well.
- Downtime – Remember to always schedule down time during the day. No matter how fun the activity is, your child won’t enjoy it if they’ve reached their limit for the day.
- Prepare family members ahead of time in regards to any autism related traits they might want to know about.
Remember, preparation is the key to everything. A well thought out trip is a good trip. Follow these tips and you and your child with Asperger’s syndrome or autism will be all set for many years of happy traveling.