Dear “And You Will Have Kids”,
I read your blog recently and saw a post on traveling with children.
I am wondering if you have any tips on traveling with a handicapped child? We’d like to go on vacation this summer, but are unsure how to handle our autistic child.
Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Dear “Wondering Mom”,
Congratulations on your upcoming vacation!
We travel quite frequently with our two autistic children. It can be done, but it does require planning, and patience. I’d love to share with you some of the things that we’ve discovered along the way. Perhaps they may be of help to you.
Have a Plan
When you have a handicapped child, especially an autistic child, you can’t just pack and go. You need to have a plan. Some things to consider are when you will leave, when you will eat, which route you’ll take, and where you’ll be staying. Also consider how you’ll get there: will you fly, take the train, or your vehicle.
If your child is on medication, you may wish to purchase a travel case. If your child’s medicine needs to be refrigerated, you’ll need to get a storage chest with ice packs. Never take all of your child’s medication on a trip, just take as much as you’ll need. If you take all of your child’s medication and you lose the medication, it may be difficult to replace. On the other hand, if you run out of medication, you can go to the nearest pharmacy and ask for some medicine to “hold you over” until you can get a hold of your child’s doctor.
Remember the Routine
When you are planning, remember that it’s important to continue your child’s routine even though you are traveling. If your child gets up every day at 6 am, plan on leaving after 6 am if possible. If your child eats every day at 12, plan on looking for a place to eat around 11:30. Continue your child’s bedtime routine too.
Remember the Familiar
Many autistic children have “meltdowns” when they have to deal with a new situation. That’s why it’s so important to keep familiar things around your child when you travel. It’s also important to minimize new things.
I know some families who have actually purchased travel trailers or pop up tents because they enjoy traveling. Since the tent or trailer is familiar to the autistic child, it makes it easier. Remember to bring along favorite foods, blankets, stuffed animals, and even favorite DVD’s for you child.
Also consider what calms your child down when she gets stressed. If your child likes watching a certain DVD when she gets anxious, remember to bring the portable DVD player and that DVD along!
Remember To Allow Time
If your mapping program says that you can make your destination in 7 hours, don’t count on it. Allow extra time to reach your destination and don’t over-schedule yourself. This will also help to reduce “meltdowns”.
Do you have any other tips to share with this mom? Please post!