What are some ways to make traveling with an autistic child less stressful?
Structure, structure and some more structure. Deviate only when necessary. Explain to your child every aspect of the trip before going.
If you are traveling by plane you might consider going to a small airport and asking if there is someone who owns an airplane you could take your child through to familiarize her to airplanes before the actual event.
My son has just been assessed and is on the autistic spectrum. He loves music so we'll be taking along a CD with some of his favorite nursery rhymes and songs on. We're also going to take along some of his hand held games (think he's got his eye on the iPad, but I think this is a bit too risky!). Some his smaller favorite toys, snacks and drinks will be packed for the journey. We're just tapping into his interests and the things that will calm him in cases of upset. We're trying to give him a sense of familiarity within new events or surroundings.
Interesting question. I've worked with autistic children and young adults for some time now and got feedback from parents as well as travel on long journeys myself with them so I have learnt that sometimes special measures are necessary.
1. Get to know before your journey if the child has any known triggers that may cause upset or disruption. For example, one young man I worked with needed to know some days in advance that we would be going on a car journey. We wrote this down for him in his journal/daybook so it was there in black and white. The date, time and who would be in the car with him were crucial.
2. Incentives to travel. Perhap if there is a purpose to the journey it is more understandable for an autistic person. You could point out or write down or have a photograph of a place or person you're going to visit. If the autistic person has a favourite item or toy they could take that with them for security.
3. Sequences. If you travel with us then you can go to the cinema later on. It is a fact that some autistic children cannot tolerate a break in routine but if you have to do it with a car journey then try to keep the routine intact by suggesting..... first the car journey.... then the routine.
4.Smart technology may help. Music or visuals or both to keep the mind relaxed. A favourite fun video or dvd can keep a child from stressing out.
5. Let them know that you will have a break during the journey if this is needed. Again write it down or have visuals available so that they know a structure is in place. So for example, - 30 minutes drive then a break for a drink or 1 hour drive then a break.
6. Have a strategy in place if the unexpected happens. If you're on public transport for instance you may want a suitably positioned seat so that it would be easier for you to acces an exit door or a quieter space or a toilet/washroom.
There are other factors to take into account - the behavioural patterns of the individual, medication issues possibly.
The basics are - to be as prepared as you can be before the journey and resourceful on the journey. Learn as much as you can and take the positives out of it in readiness for any future travel.
Oh, my, I am by no means an expert, but I have a great-nephew who is autistic and I find him quite delightful, thought at times, exhausting. I feel for parents who have little help, because support in the form of tangible help is really important. Especially if a person wants to travel with their autistic child. Here are some thoughts I had while thinking about this very relevant question.
It would be more difficult to travel with any special needs child, but not impossible. Autistic children are usually very bright and inquisitive even though they are more sensitive to their environment. Planning would be essential, including (and perhaps more importantly) planning for unplanned events. The child's needs would be the main focus, and would determine, I think, the type of transportation that would most be suitable both environmentally and physically. I think extra help would be imperative, depending on the level of autism. All in all, a lot of autistic children might very much enjoy some forms of travel, and that would be a great stress reliever in itself.
Try and keep things on as much as a routine as possible. If you and your child eat a noon regularly stop and eat a noon. Bring earphones or headsets for noise reduction if you are going to be in a crowded place.
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