Kirsty Russell is a writer and mother of three kids, two of whom are on the autism spectrum. In between kid wrangling, advocating, chauffeuring, cooking, cleaning and interpreting, she shares her thoughts on special needs parenting at Positive Special Needs Parenting and shares her travel adventures with her family in tow at Autism Family Travel.
Travelling as an autism family is a huge step. It takes a whole lot of courage, belief and hope, but it is possible to travel successfully and for everyone to enjoy the trip. Here are 15 strategies you can use to make your holiday as an autism family a success (and one that every member of the family enjoys!) Start small - don’t book an overseas holiday for your first adventure. Start with an overnight stay with family or friends or consider staying in a hotel/motel in your local area. This is a low risk way to identify whether travel is a viable option for your family, discover potential issues and find ways to deal with them. Don’t compromise - you may need special diets, accommodation for service animals, extra security if your child is likely to run away or access to a secure outdoor area. Make sure the needs of your family come first – don’t compromise, even if you are tempted to do so for convenience or budget reasons. Use social stories - social stories are a great way to help reassure kids, make them aware of what's going to happen and guide their behaviour. For your trip, include a map, copy of your itinerary, calendar, photos & anything else that will help reassure them and make them feel less anxious about the holiday. Identify sensory triggers - know what triggers your child (e.g. smells, sounds, sights, textures) and have strategies in place to deal with them. Pack sensory items such as noise cancelling headphones, ear muffs, fidget toys, weighted blankets and chewy jewellery to keep your kids calm and address their sensory needs. Incorporate special interests - special interests help centre and calm your child in periods of stress and anxiety and they can also be used
Travelling as an autism family is a huge step. It takes a whole lot of courage, belief and hope, but it is possible to travel successfully and for everyone to enjoy the trip.