In April 2018, Sesame Place, outside Philadelphia, United States, became the first park in the world certified to receive autistic people. The news is very cool and we get excited, but with both feet on the ground, it’s also possible to think that the news took a while. Even more: if it happened in 2018 in a first world park, when will this seal awarded by the International Council of Accreditation Standards and Continuing Education get here?
Paula Gugelmin Kasecker, child psychologist, guides parents on how to prepare for a trip with an autistic child. “There are various degrees of autism, but the vast majority of autistics cling to routine, do not deal well with news, have difficulties with language and social rules. It is common for people who do not know about autism to consider the child rude. Others, wanting to help, talk a lot and make the autistic person nervous. It is necessary to know how to deal with and understand the limits of the autistic person”, explains the psychologist.
Paula was a superpartner of Viajo com Filhos to start a special series about traveling with children with ASD – Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Check out the tips:
make social history
Build a very objective story with the sequence of what will happen. Use real images of the car, plane, check-in, situations that will pass. “Predictability is super important to prepare autistic people to experience new things. He needs to see a ‘movie’ of what will happen. Do the social history before leaving for the destination and on the way home too. During the trip, before visiting a tourist attraction, show images of that place and tell what the child will find”, reinforces the psychologist. Paula recommends teaching social history several times. “If the child is very anxious, the parents should show it the day before the trip. If not, it’s good to start two weeks earlier. Each case is a case”, she completes.
Use priority service
People with ASD have the same legal rights as people with disabilities. “Autistic people have a hard time waiting. Before reaching the child’s limit, use the preferential service and avoid wear and tear during the trip”, says Paula.
focus on the right
The psychologist warns: “Always say what the child has to do and don’t set the wrong example. Tell her to sit down instead of telling her she can’t stand. Tell her to keep her seat belt on instead of telling her she can’t take it off.”
work on motivation
In addition to always praising positive behavior, rewards are a good strategy, according to Paula. “I always remind parents to take small jellybeans because they can give them more often. But the child should not be given to calm down in times of crisis. It is a reward for having tried something, waiting in line, or having fulfilled an agreement,” she explains.
Psychologist Paula gives three quick tips for parents:
Start with walks close to home, in the park or square. Stay a little while and come back. It is important not to reach the limit of the autistic child.For the first trip, choose a destination that is not that far away. Calmer beaches and places without much noise and hustle are good options.The habit of traveling contributes a lot to the development of children with ASD. Over time, it will no longer be necessary to do social history and predictability diminishes.
Karina Hirami is a journalist and the mother of three-year-old Bia.While airport experiences have become much more difficult for all of us since 9/11, they can be an extreme challenge for someone who has an inherent difficulty waiting in line, not to mention answering security questions. “If an officer asks, ‘Did you pack your own bag?’ Someone with autism could repeat the question, or simply repeat the word ‘suitcase,’” says Dr. Melissa Nishawala, director of the Autism Spectrum Disorders Service at the Center for Child Studies at New York University. “The child can read ‘dangerous explosives’ on a sign somewhere at the airport and start repeating those words. Out loud. In queue.”