Summer is an exciting time filled with opportunities for fun and social opportunities. Though this is a fun time, the change in routine, unusual clothes, increased interaction, and new places may be stressful for children with an autism spectrum disorder. Bierman ABA Autism Center has provided some tips that may help ease anxiety and help with enjoyment of summer fun and travel.
Just like any vacation, the key to a great trip with a kid with autism is preparation. Here are some tips for the extra preparation your family may need to enjoy fun in the sun:
If traveling to a new place, provide children with pictures before hand. If possible, arrange these pictures into a visual schedule. The internet is a great resource for this. While going through the pictures, tell your child what they may do, see, hear, or feel in the new place. Use words or more pictures to tell them what will happen before or after they visit the new place.
• Sensory practice. Will your trip require sleeping in a different bed or other new sensory experiences? “Practice” these new senses at home before leaving. Switch beds with your child or have your child sleep on the couch. If headed to the beach, have your child play in a local sandbox or dip his feet in a bucket of water at home.
• Wear new clothing or swimsuits before the trip. Try on any new or unusual clothing at home before the trip. Try them on for the first time while a child participates in one of his favorite activities.
• Plan to take breaks. Bring some of a child’s favorite items on the trip. Think of a realistic time frame a child can participate in a vacation activity without taking a break. Use the child’s favorite items to motivate the children.
• Earplugs. You never know what new sound may bother a child with autism. Earplugs can also be used as a “magic” barrier to help children feel safe and protected in a new environment.
• Practice waiting in lines and other travel routines. Model the experience in your own home. The Transportation Security Association also has videos of all travel procedures available on their website.
• Prepare an information card to give to guest services, flight attendants, or other personnel associated with your trip. Many travel and hospitality employees have special needs and disability training. This will staff know what extra considerations may help your family be successful.