Traveling for an ASD child can be difficult; but it doesn’t have to be. I just returned from a month long trip. Two weeks I traveled with all of my children and two weeks without. While am not an expert on traveling with ASD children, I do make at least 3, 1 week+ trips per year with one. My sons travel needs are different than my other children. These are some tried and true tips that I’ve used over the years:
1. Don’t talk about the trip until 2-3 days before leaving. If you start talking about it earlier, anxiety and worry has time to build.
2. Let him help in planning. This means to let him pack some of his favorite things (books, mind games, lovie, ect.) or letting him suggest activities when you arrive (make sure to follow through). This will give him a sense of control and gives something to look forward to.
3. Make a daily plan, and STICK with it. It can be tough to do this. I’m actually terrible about it. This doesn’t mean to plan out every hour of every day. This means that you TELL your child “we will do X, Y and Z today”. Tell him how long you plan to stay at each thing, or what time you need to arrive/leave.
4. Pack things for mental retreats. It is likely that your child will have times that he needs to retreat from the activities and simply exist quietly for a time. Buy a new fact book, coloring book, or a maze book. Whatever makes your child feel rested and at peace, even if it’s a blanket he can hide under.
5. Remember to plan ‘down time’. This really goes along with #3, but it’s extremely important. No child can go all day without becoming tired, and being tired and in a strange place is a recipe for disaster for an ASD child.
6. Know your child. If your child can’t take loud noises, don’t take him to a drag race. If you think he would enjoy it, make sure to take the strongest ear protection you can find. You might have to miss things you would enjoy, but really, how much will you enjoy it if your child is miserable and crying/screaming.
Leaving you child with a CAREGIVER:
1. Don’t leave them with just anyone. Your child has special needs. Not everyone will understand this. Make sure the person that you are leaving your child with understands his differences and is willing to be patient. Outline the things he needs to feel safe and happy.
2. Make it close to home. This isn’t always possible. The more familiar the location, the more relaxed he’ll be.
3. Help him settle. Try and stay with him at the new location for at least 2 days before you leave. Trust me it helps.
4. Take plenty of familiar activities. This is not the time to learn new skills. Take things that you know he’s comfortable with.
5. Take a lovie or blanket. Even if your child isn’t attached to something, chances are he will be when you return (it happened to me).
6. Explain. You know that things aren’t going to go like they do at home, but does your child? Make sure he understands that different homes mean different rules and that is ok. He might be allowed more of a certain type of food, or activity, this is no cause for alarm. If you know something specific that will be different, make sure you tell your child.
7. Relax. The more relaxed you are, the more relaxed your child will be. Prepare as much as you can and expect the best outcome. You and your child will be much happier.