Are We There Yet? Family Vacations with Autistic Children
Although planning a family vacation with children may make any parents pull out his or her hair, it can be a rewarding experience for everyone in the end. It is no different if you have an autistic child in the family, but you have to be ready for those twists and turns along the way. To an autistic child, vacations can be scary and confusing, or they can be a great learning experience, leaving behind wonderful memories the entire family can enjoy.
First, choose your location-based on your autistic child’s needs. For example, if he or she is sensitive to sound, an amusement park is probably not the best idea. Quieter vacations are possible at small beaches and by going camping. Overall, you should be able to find a location that everyone in the family enjoys. Once you arrive, plan out your days accordingly. For example, you may want to see attractions very early or late in the day to avoid crowds. Consider taking your vacations during the off-season, so as not to disrupt your child’s school work. The less crowded a place is then the more comfortable your autistic child will be and this will also provide you some piece of mind as well. When choosing a location, also note how far it is from you home. How will you get there? If you have to deal with an airport, remember that security may have to touch your child and be prepared for this. The first time we dealt with airport security and our autistic son, it was a nightmare and we did not go on any family vacations for years.
Choose a location and activities that everyone can enjoy, but also that provide learning and social interaction opportunities for your autistic child. For example, a child that does not like touch sensations may enjoy the soft sands of a beach, and the waves can provide a very different kind of feeling for him or her. Being outside, a beach is also a great place for your child to yell without disturbing or disrupting others. Children who are normally non-responsive may benefit from a museum , where they can ask questions and you can ask questions of them.
Remember that most people on vacation at the location you choose will have never dealt with autism before. Try to be understanding of their ignorance-but also stick up for your child if he or she is being treated unfairly.
Know your child’s constitutional laws, and also be willing to compromise. For example, if a restaurant is reluctant to serve you after your child caused a scene there last night, explain the situation and ask if it would be possible to take your food to go, even if this is normally not done. Try not to be rude to people; staring often happens, but instead of snide comments or mean looks, ignore them as much as possible and focus on having a good time with your family
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