Traveling on the Autism Spectrum
Updated: Mar 4, 2022
What are your plans this summer?
The summer season has begun, and many families are traveling for day trips or vacation. Although, depending on an individual’s personality and/or where the individual is on the Autism spectrum, needs and challenges will be different for everyone. Thus, day trips and vacations can be difficult for many Autistics. Vartan (2017) shares many reasons that day trips or vacations can be difficult for some Autistics in which should be kept in mind:
Unexpected changes in routine due to new experiences
Issues with new noises and sights that can impact sensory input
Finding acceptable foods due to choosy eating habits
NOTE: I shared a blog story about helping Autistic children and adults going from choosy eating to healthy eating. The blog story is called, “Choosy Eater to Healthy Eater”.
Different levels of co-occurring disabilities or conditions
Example: An autistic child or adult having a physical disability as well, from minor to significant, depending on the individual.
Growing up, I had sensory issues and choosy eating habits during day trips or vacations. For instance, I will never forget the first time I ever went to Disney World. It was 2004, and I was 6 years old at the time. My parents used to find restaurants that had French toast, pizza, or macaroni and cheese on the menu. If they did not any of these foods on the menu, my family and I would go somewhere else until there was at least one of these foods on the restaurant’s menu. Keep in mind that it took me a long time to learn and try new foods, so I still had choosy eating habits for years.
Furthermore, I remember watching a show in Disney’s Animal Kingdom section of Disney World. The noise level of the show was so loud for me that I covered my ears the entire time, and I was starting to cry at one point. My mom noticed I was not having fun watching the show, so she got me outside because it was quieter outside than inside, since the show was playing inside. As I got older, I became not as sensitive with loud noises as I used to. A lot has to do with watching shows or listening to music on my phone by having the volume higher. Want to know how to help Autistics get ready and get through day trips or vacations? Here are some ways to help Autistics get ready and get through a fun day trip or vacation:
Be flexible! Allow the Autistic child or adult choose the vacation or day trip in mind. It allows them to work on making decisions for themselves. Although, keep in mind to make sure the location for the day trip or vacation is Autism friendly, which means places that have employees with knowledge about individuals on the Autism Spectrum. For example, Walt Disney World has a program in place that accommodates Autistics and their families. This is a great location because not only employees understand, but the location advocates for Autistics by having a program in place. Lastly, make sure to establish some break times during the day trip or vacation for everyone to rest up.
Establish an itinerary! Make sure to have a schedule full of routines because this will make a vacation or day trip less stressful for Autistics. Some changes in routine can occur during a day trip or vacation, which is understandable. Make sure to use visual supports, like a visual schedule, to demonstrate a change in routine. Autistic children and adults will learn and know expectations for the day during a day trip or a vacation, no matter the changes or not.
Use social stories or role playing! By creating social stories or role playing about vacations or day trips, this helps Autistics know expectations and understand in general about vacations or day trips.
Be equipped and prepared! Make sure to have packed sensory items and anything else based on Autistic child or adult’s needs to get through traveling and through a day trip or vacation. Here are some recommended items or objects: noise canceling headphones, visual supports (EX: visual schedule), fidget spinners, stress squeezable balls, an iPad or tablet, weight lap blanket, portable scents (sensory seekers), sunglasses, chewable foods (ex: crackers or pretzels), and etc. These are some recommend items, so remember to pack based on an Autistic child or adult’s needs.
Where are you going this summer? If you have been on a vacation or went on day trips already, where did you go? Share your thoughts in the comments section!
Vartan, S. (2017, September 26.) How the world is changing for travelers with autism. CNN travel. https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/travelers-with-autism/index.html