Traveling with an Autistic Child
Changes in routine and daily structure can be challenging for children with autism. However, parents and caregivers can try these recommendations from experts and other families when planning a trip or vacation with their autistic child:
- A couple of weeks before you leave, create a social story or travel book that shows your child what to expect while traveling, who’s going, where you’ll be staying, and the activities that you’re planning. Mark the date on a calendar and count down the days. If you’re visiting a place you’ve all been before, review photos or videos with your child to refresh their memory.
- If you’re traveling by plane, include in your story book pictures or descriptions of the terminal, security, boarding, and baggage claim. If feasible, take your child to the airport before your trip so they can become familiar with what to expect. You can also role-play the security and boarding process at home. On the day of your trip, notify the gate attendant that you’re boarding with a child who has ASD, so you can board early or last. Guest services may be available for additional support at your hotel, the airport, and at any family attractions you intend to visit.
- Help your child pack a backpack with their favorite toys, activity or coloring books, and snacks to keep them occupied during travel. Consider ear plugs or headphones for your child to block out too much sensory stimulation.
- Try to create a schedule and keep as much of your child’s routine as possible. For instance, if your child prefers quiet time in the late afternoon, try to schedule activities in the morning and make afternoons lower-key. Be sure to recognize and reward your child for positive behaviors.
- Consider kid-friendly destinations. Theme parks such as Disney World have special accommodations for kids with disabilities, such as ride passes that allow families to bypass long lines. Contact guest relations in advance.
- Plan for enough downtime: don’t try to pack too many activities into each day. Allowing enough time to rest can help to prevent a child’s emotional meltdown from tiredness and too much sensory stimulation.
Harsha Autism Center provides ongoing care for children, adolescents, and young adults (ages 2-22) with autism to improve the quality of their lives. If you would like learn more about how Harsha Autism Center can help please contact us at email@example.com or call (812) 233-8833.