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5 Tips for Traveling with Autistic Children

Posted on Friday, May 18th, 2012 at 11:39 am under Play Hard.
airport walkway

Courtesy of DMJarvey

Traveling with children can be a challenging. Waiting in line at the airport, driving for hours in a car, sitting in restaurants, and sleeping in unfamiliar bed can disrupt any child’s life.

But, for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder traveling can completely unravel them if not prepared. Autistic children thrive on routine, so a break from the day-to-day that many find relaxing may be completely unnerving in their eyes.

To make your summer travel more enjoyable, we discovered 5 useful tips for vacationing with autistic children.

Create familiarity
One of the best things you can do to prepare your child for travel is to create familiarity with your trip. Find videos that show your child where he is going. You can call the travel bureau to order one of none is available at your local library.  Find photos, books, and websites that allow your child to become aware of his or her new surroundings before he arrives. You can even include photos of who will vacation with you, a list of where you will visit and the activities you plan to enjoy, and also provide a calendar that counts down to the day you leave.

Getting to know the airport
If you plan to fly for your trip, it’s a great idea to prepare your child for the bustling airport. Though it may not be ideal to park and go inside, driving by the airport (if it’s convenient) is a great way to show your child where you will begin your journey. Show him or her the parking lot, how the planes take off, and go over the process of flying from start to finish.

Pack accordingly
If your child has sensory needs, bring his favorite soap, bedding, pillows, and towels. Bring extras to replace anything that may get lost. Pack snacks you know your child will eat and toys and games to keep him busy while traveling.

Bring identification
Attach identification to your child that displays his or her name, diagnosis, cell phone number, and any suggestions to help keep her safe. If wearing it will bother your child, hook it to her back or shoelaces. Also keep a recent photo of your child with you in case he or she wanders off.

Plan around your child’s needs
Find activities you know your child will enjoy. If he or she likes certain things like trains or animals, look for local activities that offer these experiences. Limit the number of activities you do each day and allow for plenty of quiet time in the hotel.

With the right preparation, you may find your child enjoys traveling so much that he or she wants to go all the time.

The Big Question:
Do you have a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder? If so, what are some of your best tips for traveling?

Further Resources:

Autism Speaks: Ten Strategies for Traveling with a Child with Autism