Is traveling good for autism?
The holiday season is a time when many families from New Hampshire and Massachusetts choose to travel. Touring offers many benefits, whether to visit loved ones in different cities or countries or simply for the joy of tourism; it provides cultural exposure, personal development, learning opportunities, and stress relief, among other things. Traveling with autism should not be a hindrance to these enriching experiences.
However, due to the complexities associated with autism, many parents find themselves asking, “Is traveling good for autism?” At ABA Centers of America, we firmly believe that children on the spectrum and their families should enjoy all life has to offer, including traveling.
While the prospect of traveling with autism can seem daunting, this is one of the many milestones families seek to achieve, and we are here to help. This blog post will provide seven valuable tips for successful traveling during the holiday season, ensuring everyone can enjoy the journey and the destination.
Traveling with Autism: Considerations for a Smooth Journey
Traveling with autism can present unique challenges, as many individuals on the spectrum find changes in routine, sensory stimuli like noise and lights, crowded environments, long waits, and security protocols particularly overwhelming. These factors are crucial to bear in mind when planning a trip with an individual with autism.
Preparing can significantly alleviate these discomforts. While controlling every element of the journey is impossible, careful planning can ensure a smoother travel experience for those with autism and help prevent unwelcome surprises. Remember, preparation is the key to successfully traveling with autism. By following these ten tips from ABA Centers of America, you can venture out with more confidence (and a backup plan).
- Opt for Less Busy Hours: The exhilarating sensation of take-off, the bird’s eye view of tiny towns, and the calming landscape of clouds are aspects of air travel that many children find exciting. However, before experiencing these joys, navigating at the airport is a process. To ensure a positive experience when dealing with autism and flying, choosing flight times during less busy hours is advisable. While early morning flights may offer the advantage of less crowded airports, they can pose challenges for individuals with autism due to disruptions to routines and a potential lack of sleep. Travel experts at One Travel suggest considering flights after 6 pm. Late evening tends to be one of the least busy periods, with recommendations often pinpointing flights around 9:30 pm or later as ideal options. This strategy could help make the experience of flying with autism more manageable and enjoyable.
- Contact Airline Customer Service: Many airlines provide additional support upon request. By contacting the customer service representatives of your airline, you can request services such as early boarding or front-row seating. These options help avoid lengthy wait times and crowded spaces, enhancing comfort during boarding. In case of flight delays, inquire with the airline staff about access to VIP lounges. These quieter environments can offer a relaxing space for your child. Furthermore, when selecting a hotel, ensure it caters to guests with autism. You may wonder what accommodations a neurodiversity-friendly hotel should offer. To guide you, Autism Speaks has a comprehensive list of factors worth considering. Be sure to ask the hotel’s customer service representatives about these aspects to ensure a pleasant stay for you and your family.
- Explore Resources for Autism and Travel: As more people accept autism, hotels, tourist destinations, and activities are increasingly offering accommodations to meet the needs of neurodiverse individuals. Researching suitable activities, accommodations, and autism-friendly locations can significantly enhance the experience of traveling with autism. The Autism Travel directory by Autism Travel is a valuable resource that offers a comprehensive list of certified autism center businesses around the globe. By leveraging these resources, you can ensure a smoother and more enjoyable journey regarding autism and travel.
- Employ Visual Aids to Prepare Your Child for Travel: It is crucial to set clear expectations when preparing an autistic child for a trip. Because individuals with autism often respond well to visual aids, they are an effective tool for anticipation and familiarization. For instance, using a calendar to count the days until the journey can help build anticipation. Similarly, you can use graphic cards to familiarize your child with crucial travel scenarios, such as security protocols, check-in procedures, waiting in the gate area, boarding and disembarking from the airplane, and retrieving baggage. Explaining these aspects in detail can help alleviate anxiety associated with these experiences when traveling with autism. Resources like JetBlue provide educational stories about airplane travel that can be beneficial. Utilizing these tools and strategies can help reduce stress when traveling with autism.
- Encourage Your Child’s Participation in the Process: Including your child in the trip preparation process can help alleviate their anxiety. An excellent method to facilitate this is by packing together. Invite them to select their favorite calming toys, snacks, and TV shows or movies that they can enjoy during waiting times. Remember to incorporate devices that may help manage potential sensory issues, such as noise-canceling headphones, earplugs, dark glasses, music players, and an extra change of clothes. Hydration is also essential, so remember to pack water. Opt for comfortable, loose-fitting clothing when dressing your child for the journey. Layers are a smart choice as you can add or remove them easily to accommodate fluctuating temperatures.
- Strengthen Skills Across Various Environments: For children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), specific skills such as using public restrooms, waiting their turn, remaining seated for extended periods, self-regulation, and following instructions can be crucial for safe and confident traveling. It’s beneficial to consult with your child’s ABA therapist to focus on and reinforce these skills in the lead-up to your trip. They can also provide strategies for you to apply in different environments, making traveling with autism a smoother experience. For instance, we recommend visiting public restrooms with your child as part of their preparation, ensuring they are comfortable using these facilities outside of the home environment. Remember, it’s essential to implement a positive reinforcement system to enhance learning and encourage progress. By reinforcing these skills, you can ensure that you and your child are well-prepared for the adventures of autism and travel.
- Develop a Comprehensive Plan: When traveling with autism, planning is crucial to prepare for unexpected scenarios. Given that unpredictability can be a common feature of travel, having a selection of ideas to keep your child entertained and ward off boredom is essential. Boredom can often lead to frustration or challenging behavior, so having a plan in place can help mitigate these issues. Many guides are available online with toys and games for waiting times and flying moments. Establishing a routine during vacations can be challenging, mainly when catering to the needs of other children. Organization remains vital—create a schedule considering everyone’s needs and preferences. Implementing such a routine can assist your child with autism in developing a sense of consistency while ensuring that all family members have enjoyable activities to look forward to. Remember to incorporate time for you and periods for relaxation!
How Can ABA Centers of America Assist with Autism and Travel?
At ABA Centers of America, we firmly believe that traveling with autism should not be a deterrent. Travel can offer significant benefits to individuals with autism and their families. It presents an excellent opportunity to create lasting memories, learn, and enjoy some relaxation!
If the prospect of traveling with a child with autism is causing concern, our ABA therapy services are here to provide support. Through our therapy sessions, you and your child can gain the necessary tools, skills, strategies, and coping mechanisms to navigate complex situations that may arise when traveling. Our ABA experts are ready to assist your child in enhancing their communication skills, attention span, learning abilities, and positive behaviors, all of which contribute to successful travel experiences.
If you’re planning a trip or seeking ways to support your child’s development, don’t hesitate to contact us. Call (844) 923-4222 or visit our website for a free consultation. Let’s make traveling with autism an achievable reality today!