Tips for Traveling with an Autistic Child

Photo: Father and autistic son boarding a trainFamilies with children on the autism spectrum have all kinds of tricks that make their life at their home smoother, but what about on the road? Travel is chaotic and chaos means stress for the child with autism. The key to helping manage that stress is preparation. Doing your prep work when you are traveling with an autistic child goes beyond making reservations and booking flights. The sensory issues that come with this condition along with the heightened sense of excitement are overwhelming. You need to find ways to circumvent that anxiety and introduce order back into his or her life.


Let Your Child Experience the New Location at Home

The unknown is always scary, so cushion the blow with some at home projects. Schedule a time each day just to learn more about where you are going. You and your child can sit and watch videos about your destination, for example. Create a picture book of the hotel and other places you will see while away. Set up a calendar and let your child check off each day before you leave, so you count down to the trip.

Plan Your Itinerary Around Your Child’s Normal Routine

The less you disrupt the normal everyday routine, the better your child will cope with any changes that do occur. This may mean scheduling breaks at key times. If lunch at home is at noon every day, then that is when you have lunch on the road, as well. Whether you are flying or driving, do your best to maintain a schedule.

You may also need to plan breaks around the vacation activities, too. Anything that has too many stimuli can lead to a meltdown. If going to a theme park, for example, sit down and have a snack after a 4-D movie. If necessary, consider half days for your child with autism and then enjoy some down time at the pool or watching a movie.

Work with the Destination to Create the Best Environment

Many mainstream resorts and vacation spots understand the needs of autistic children. When planning your trip, call the venues and talk to them about any services they offer for kids with special needs. They are likely to be very accommodating.

This is especially important if you are flying. Give the Houston airport a heads up. They might help you get through the security lines quickly and let you board before the other passengers, so you can get your little one situated and busy before other people come onto the plane.

Put Safety First When Traveling with Autistic Child

Make sure your autistic child is wearing identification of some kind. If he or she won’t wear a medic alert tag, sew labels onto travel clothes or attach it to shoelaces. Consider some form of a GPS alert system that will allow you to track them if necessary. You can purchase devices that fit into the soles of sneakers.

Bring resources to protect your child from sensory overload, too. Noise-blocking headphones or earbuds are good choices if going to an amusement park.

Vacation doesn’t have to be a challenge – not if you plan it right. Tailor your trip around things your child enjoys and use the time to help your kids autistic or not discover new things.