Preparing for a holiday – tips for children with autism
We have looked at some practical ways to make it a successful family holiday for a child with autism.
Most people love holiday’s and really look forward to unwinding and taking a break. Holidays and family vacations, however, can be very challenging and overwhelming for children with autism.
At SDN, we believe that everybody deserves a holiday! And the good news is that the increase in global autism awareness has made travel and accommodation a lot easier than it used to be for a child with autism.
Understanding and preparation can support a successful family holiday.
Understand your child
Find out exactly what their anxieties and fears are. Some of these could include:
- Mode of transport being used
- Unsure about a new place, new food, or new people
- Fear of the unknown
- Change in the routine
- Sensory overload
Once you have an understanding about what your child’s specific needs are, you can start to plan your holiday.
Tips to help the child:
- Talk to them and ask them about their concerns
- Prepare them with as much information about the holiday destination as possible through books, brochures, websites and video clips.
- Discuss what part of their daily routine will remain the same and what things will be different
- Prepare a visual schedule for the holiday that they can take with them
- Prepare a travel bag with some of their favourite things, including items that help them to calm down or to feel more secure.
- Give them information about who the ‘safe’ adults are to approach during travel if they get lost or need help. g. Security personnel, flight attendant, staff etc
- Have them wear a medical alert bracelet or carry Autism Alert Card. These are particularly helpful for when a child is lost, they have difficulty communicating or get upset in unfamiliar surroundings
Tips for parents:
- Be VERY selective with accommodation. Consider noise, lights, amount of people
- If possible, reconsider staying at a relative’s house - the added amount of people under one roof can be very overwhelming for some children with Autism. This then often leads to more stress and pressure on their parents – which negates the reason for having a holiday in the first place.
- Use the search term ‘autism-friendly’ when looking for accommodation and modes of transport
- Discuss your child’s needs beforehand with others who can help.
- Plan and prepare for everything, as much as you can.
- Consider food options. Can you bring your own food? What restaurants are nearby that are suitable?
- Consider all sensory issues that may arise and how you can help minimise or eliminate sensory overload
- Pack a spare of your child’s favourite security item or calming object, extra batteries and a charger! (if needed)
While the planning and preparation for such a holiday can seem unrelenting, it will ensure that all members of the family have an enjoyable time together.