With a little bit of preparation, families with children with autism can an amazing summer vacation experience. With a little additional planning, a summer bummer can turn into a vacation of a lifetime. Since no two children are the same, a generic pre-written guide may not be helpful. It's important to consider your child's past successful outings and consider the areas where they may need assistance.
Before any extended outing, my husband and I carefully consider our son’s needs and try to back items that will support him cope with unfamiliar experiences. Here are some things we consider or modify before any family vacation.
My family typically opts to rent vacation homes with a pool rather than staying at a resort. Cities and vacation destinations can be noisy and unpredictable. Renting a house allows my son a more quiet and an environment similar to his own home. We also do not have to worry that his loud vocal stims, that typically occur when he is over stimulated, disturbing people in adjacent hotel rooms.
Our son is a natural born swimmer and is happiest when surrounded by water. For this reason, our vacation plans always includes opportunities for water play. Even when we travel to large cities or plan visits to museums, we schedule breaks throughout the day for the pool. We have found that our son is best able to handle the hustle and bustle typical of most vacations when he is given time to recharge and find his center.
We always make sure to bring noise canceling headphones when visiting museums or touring loud city streets. Prior to our visit, we check location maps to find quiet spaces to retreat in case of overstimulation. I have also found it helpful to map out locations like parks or recreation centers where people will not mind if he becomes loud. When sight seeing we encourage engagement at his level but build in 15 minutes of video or music time for every half hour of sight seeing.
My husband and I love to eat in trendy restaurants and explore local cuisine. But, we have work hard to find a balance that allows a comfortable experience for everyone. While we still eat in restaurants throughout our visit, we typically eat out during lunch to avoid less crowed eateries during the dinner rush. Eating dinner at home also helps him stick to our usual night-time routine.