Family travel can be one of the most memorable and exciting times of our childhood. There is nothing better than being with family, maybe a few close friends, and spending time bonding. When it comes to Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) families can face many challenges and must meticulously plan their travel. Let us dive into my five tips for traveling with ASD kids as we kick-off Autism Acceptance Month and see what types of travel will benefit your family.
What is Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a disability that challenges social interactions, behaviors, and communication skills in individuals which may cause trouble easily adapting to unforeseen changes.
How is travel different for kids with ASD?
Families travel near and far to create lifelong memories with their children, and introduce them to new places, sights, and experiences. These new experiences can be a very exciting adventure, however, a child with ASD can struggle with the unknown circumstances of this new adventure.
Top 5 tips for traveling with ASD kids.
Read my top 5 tips for traveling with ASD kids. These tips will help you plan proper communication to your child, adapt to unplanned scenarios, outline the importance of comfort items, point out travel to sensory-friendly locations, and modes of how to get to your destination.
Communication is the number one factor in successfully traveling with a child who has ASD. Often, the lack of communication is the basis of what sets the tone of the trip. Explaining what happens, how it will happen, and when is key. Being honest when there will be no specific agenda will also allow for your ASD child to maintain an internal dialog to remain comfortable.
Plan for the Unexpected
Travel can have unexpected changes, whether it be flight changes, minor hotel upgrades, restaurant availability, excursion, activities, or even weather. While these items are inconvenient for even the most patient of travelers, a child with ASD cannot easily adapt or communicate their concerns to those around them, which causes anxiousness and sometimes behavioral outbursts.
When unexpected occurrence surfaces, it is often helpful for a child with ASD to have a comfort item. Sensory items like blocks, a weighted blanket, an electronic device, or even a moment to themselves to decompress allows an ASD child to decompress and gain a better understanding of the situation.
I.B.C.C.E.S. Certified Organizations
The International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards Certification (I.B.C.C.E.S.) consists of a regulatory board that evaluates and certifies travel, hospitality, and entertainment venues for being sensory-friendly. These organizations are committed to delivering experiences to individuals with ASD and maintaining those experiences through strict regulations, certifications, and continued learning. Visit Autism Travel’s Directory to view a list of organizations that are certified and sensory-friendly.
Mode of Transportation
Yes, even the form of transportation can be important to the comfort of traveling with an ASD child. Whether traveling by airplane, boat, car, train, etc., a child with ASD may need to have moments where they can decompress, run, and even rest. It is important to walk a child with ASD through the processes of how transportation will occur.
What Type of Transportation Is Best for ASD Kids?
There are many ways to travel with a child with ASD. These include Train, Airplane, Boat, Car, and even RV. Let us look at the benefits each of these offers a family with an ASD child to help determine which is right for your family.
Trains are a great option for traveling with an ASD child. Trains tend to be made of components, like wheels, that are interesting to children with sensory/cognitive disabilities. Amtrak offers disabilities for individuals traveling on select routes. Trains are also known for predictability and reliability. It is rare that the train is delayed for unforeseen reasons, or that the processes of riding by train change. Check out this joint adventure of Amtrak’s Take Me There initiative and Jennifer’s Autism Travel Vlog from Rebranding Autism by Jennifer Msumba.
Flying is most likely the most common way to travel long distances and overseas for families. Airplanes cut down ontravel time and are an efficient way to see the world. Communicate the process of the airplane ride from check-in, security, boarding, bathroom placements, and even take-off and landing.
Even though the cruise line industry has slowed significantly due to the COID-19 pandemic, cruises offer unforgettable vacations for thousands of families each year. For ASD families, cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean offer select cruises that have built an entire process on the cruise where individuals with ASD or other cognitive disabilities have been put at the forefront.
Cars are a regular mode of transportation that is efficient, economical, and adaptable. A car is often the best option when taking road trips. Cars allow for the child to be in an environment that is not new, has established rules and processes, and is generally predictable.
What is better than a road trip? A road trip in an RV! RVs offer the comfort and adaptability to make stops as often as needed, while providing access to comfort items, and providing reliability.
Tip: Reach out to the organization you will travel with and let them know you are traveling with an individual with autism. They may have resources and tools to help make your trip preparation easier.
Shift to Autism Acceptance Month
In 2021 there will be a global shift from the term “Autism Awareness Month “to a much more inclusive term “Autism Acceptance Month.” According to the Autism Society, the new terminology fosters inclusivity and improves opportunities and support for individuals and families.
Read my Top 3 Tips When Traveling During A Pandemic that details how to make travel safe during the pandemic.
Read my experience traveling internationally with children in my Cancun, Mexico blog, and learn more about our experience traveling to the Dominican Republic during COVID-19 (Coronavirus/SARS-COV-2) and how we maintain our safety.