Have you ever run out of your house without your phone? Or without your ID or money? We all know the feeling – anxiety, mild panic, and a quick calculation: what now? Should I go back home? And now imagine that your child can feel the same way when, during a holiday trip, they find out that their luggage is missing a few particular things.
What are these things, and what can you do to avoid stressing your child?
- Noise-cancelling headphones. You most likely already own a pair of these. It’s worth taking them on your holidays, as well. Even if you’re staying at the most serene place on Earth, where all you’re going to hear are birds singing and leaves rustling, you’ll probably have to spend some time in different means of transport (whether train, plane, or car). And that’s where it can get really noisy. The headphones will help your child isolate themselves from auditory stimuli.
- A thin cap. If your child doesn’t tolerate headwear, it’s worth bringing at least a thin cap that they can use to cover their eyes when needed. It’s a great way to minimize visual stimuli. A cap can also be useful for limiting unwanted social contacts, which could happen while you wait at the airport or the train station.
- A smart tablet. A tablet with your child’s favorite apps is a great way to organize your child’s time during travel and in all situations that require you to wait for a long time. A tablet will not only draw the child’s attention, but might also turn out to be the only therapeutic aid that can fit into your suitcase. Make sure that the tablet is child-friendly. Remove any unnecessary apps. If you don’t want your child to spend their time watching random videos on YouTube, remove that app as well. Leave only those apps that you need and that bring something constructive. Then you’ll know for sure that your child isn’t going to click random things. It’ll also let you give your child some freedom of choice. If they’re going to relax, you most certainly don’t want do control their every movement on the tablet.
- Weighted blanket. If you use a weighted blanket, then you know its benefits very well. It helps with sleep disorders, makes a child feel safe, and relieves sensory overload. A weighted blanket can prove useful everywhere, from the beach to the hotel room. You can read more about the benefits of weighted blankets here.
- Fidgets. Manipulative toys that help relieve stress, stop uncontrolled movements, and focus a child’s attention. Every child has their favorite toy or object that brings them fun and makes them feel relaxed. Never leave on vacation without it!
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Go to the DrOmnibus ‘Holidays’ training program
For a child with ASD, holidays will always involve some stress, since they disturb their routine and require them to change their habits. Social contact (whether desired or not) with strangers is also unavoidable.
You will find great tips for travel here in a handy PDF
Here are some of these tips:
- Teach your child with ASD about the trip in as many ways as you can, starting a couple weeks beforehand. A practice trip to the local airport may help. See if you can go through security to familiarize your child. Show him pictures of the destination and the inside of a plane.
- Practice waiting (a skill key to modern travel) with a favorite toy as a reward after a few minutes. Then gradually increase the time (tip courtesy of Chantal Sicile-Kira, sheknows.com).
- For safety, carry a recent photo of your child. Pin an information card with your up-to-date contact information to the back of his shirt or have him wear a medical alert bracelet. Include the words “nonverbal” if applicable. Consider buying commercial electronic locators.
- Inform the airlines and hotels of your special needs. See if priority seating, bulkhead seats and hotel rooms at the end of the hall are available.
- Unfortunately, other travelers and the airline may not be prepared for or even sympathetic to someone with ASD. Handing out a wallet card briefly explaining ASD helps with fellow travelers (tip courtesy of Rebecca Kaplan, USA Today).
- Vacation travel should be partially geared to the interests of the child. Don’t over-schedule the day as many children require some down time. Some places are known to accommodate special needs children, such as Disney World (tip courtesy of Amy Lennard Goehner, TIME).
And what are your methods for holidays with a child with ASD? What things do you always bring with you? What’s an absolute must-have for holidays?