Brecksville ABA Tips on Traveling With a Child Who Has Autism
Families across Northeast Ohio are gearing up for their summer travel plans. Although vacation is supposed to be a time of relaxation, new experiences and fun, the prospect of it can be overwhelming for families of children with autism. As Brecksville ABA providers, we understand the task can seem daunting.
Autism is often defined by rigidity in routine, while great travel experiences are so often about flexibility. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible. As awareness and accessibility has grown, many businesses and entire communities are offering more inclusive opportunities than ever before. Don’t presume your child won’t enjoy it just because he or she can’t say so!
In our role as ABA (applied behavioral analysis) therapists for children in Northeast Ohio, the most valuable advice is to prepare as much as you can, but don’t put too much pressure on yourself your child if it doesn’t. Expect that things can and will go wrong, but the goal is to enjoy as much of the time as you can.
Plan Routes & Arrangements in Advance
The last thing families want to be dealing with on top of a child who is anxious or even having a meltdown is the prospect of last-minute arrangements.
To minimize surprises, ahead to the airlines, hotels, transportation pickup, resorts, amusement parks – and don’t be afraid to ask for special accommodations if you need them. Look for “autism-certified” facilities, which means staffers have been trained on what autism is, how to recognize its various traits and when help may be necessitated. There are also many companies, vendors and non-profits that provide sensory-friendly experiences for children with autism spectrum disorder. Seek those out.
Have reminders of routine on hand that can comfort and provide distraction and reward, such as certain toys, games, books, pre-downloaded movies (as you’ll likely be without internet on at least some leg of your travel) and a few snacks and drinks.
Prepare Your Child for the Journey
Brecksville ABA therapists know that transitions are one of the most difficult challenges for children with autism, so preparing THEM is key too. Start talking about it a few weeks, days or hours in advance (whatever you think they can handle). Get them used to the idea. Get them excited about it. Give them a chance to ask questions. You don’t want to give them anxiety about it, but
If your child has never been to an airport before, consider arranging a visit and quick tour. Show them what to expect. One non-profit, Wings for Autism, does just this, and the Greater Cleveland Area has its own chapter. They get children familiar with airport procedures and the various people they’ll encounter from the airline staff to the TSA workers to the airport authority officials.
If you can’t go to the airport, consider making a visual schedule or social story to help them be as prepared as possible and minimize the risk of meltdowns.
Safety When Traveling
First, make sure you have all important documents – including medical records, photographs of prescriptions and contact information for your doctor, specialist, Brecksville ABA therapists’ and any other important emergency contact in a secure, easy location.
If your child is non-verbal or prone to elopement plan for these scenarios in advance. Autism safety advocates suggest a medical bracelet or necklace with your child’s name, emergency contacts, allergies and brief explanation of verbal/cognitive abilities. A blue or puzzle-design bracelet is another way to give strangers an obvious visual alert to your child’s situation should you be separated.
GPS bracelets may be another measure to consider if this is something about which you’re concerned.
If you have further questions about what strategies might make the trip most successful, our Brecksville ABA therapists at Therapy & Wellness Connection
Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – is a pediatric therapy center providing speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy and ABA therapy to children with special needs in Northeast Ohio. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email. Serving Brecksville, Akron, Cleveland and surrounding communities in Northeast Ohio.
More Blog Entries:
SPLs: Board Games Are a Winner for Autism Speech Language Therapy, May 8, 2019, Akron Down Syndrome Physical Therapy Blog