According to the International Board of Credentialing Continuing Education Standards, 87% of families with autism say they will never travel because it’s too difficult. However, I believe that the obstacles to travel are to be taken seriously, but they can also be overcome. Traveling provides many wonderful experiences for families as a whole and can result in some unexpected positive outcomes. So here are my top ten reasons for why autism families (or families facing any disability) should take a vacation:
Focus on family time
Changing the setting and sharing a new experience deepens families' appreciation for each other. When a family is facing a disability, it impacts everyone. With some careful planning, getting time away from the usual grind makes more room for connecting, supporting and growing together. It also provides necessary refueling for parents. You may even find devices are getting less use because spending time together is the prize.
Make New Memories
Making memories is important. As inflexible as autistics can be, they also need an occasional change in setting and activities. It helps them grow and create new memories and shows them that they can accomplish so much more than they realize.
Find Favorite Hobbies
Favorite hobbies can become a fully immersive experience for a whole week. It’s pretty common for an autistic person to have a favorite subject or hobby in which to be fully invested. For my son, Legos were the attraction so we planned a trip to LegoLand. The two adults had as much fun as he did! Seeing him pose proudly next to his favorite Lego model was completely worth it. He was clearly in his element.
Try Something New
As the parent, you may see your child is capable of much more than you know. Trying a new setting, riding on a plane, eating new foods. All of these open up options for your child and may expand their world beyond the usual menu and interest. The first time my son let his clothes get wet in a sidewalk fountain, it completely surprised us! Typically, water was a sensory trigger so to see him giggling and running without a care was the prize of the whole trip.
Learn the Value of a Smile
One of the best pointers I learned about traveling to a new and unfamiliar place was to smile. A smile will open many doors and help others relax around your child who may seem different to them.
Travel with a Buddy
If your dog is a huge part of your child’s life but not necessarily a service dog, you can still travel with them. Many rentals allow dogs and restaurants have outdoor seating and doggy menus. Be sure to bring a crate if required by the rental agency.
Learn New Cultures
Visiting a different nation can teach about different cultures and their practices. This opens your whole family to differences and commonalities between themselves and others and deepens their understanding of the broader world.
Look for Autism-Friendly Destinations
More and more places are becoming autism aware.You can find autism friendly activities and resorts all throughout Myrtle Beach, as well as Surfside Beach. Other places in the United States are opening their arms and hearts to the autism world too!
Take a Risk on a New Activity
Your child may exhibit new found courage and try an activity that may typically be too scary for them. Many kids on the spectrum are not risk takers because it triggers their anxiety. This is true for my son but when he’s with us and we are engaging in a new activity together, he’s more likely to join in. One example of this was when we all decided to go zip lining. Because my son could observe us and see our excitement and joy, he relaxed too and had a ton of fun.
Find Your Rerfect Vacation Spot
Before we were parents we never understood the value of repeat visits to a vacation destination. But with our son involved, we found revisiting the same place deepened our relationship with the place and gave him room to grow in courage and independence. The day he took the hotel shuttle bus all by himself was a huge success! He was familiar with it over time and felt safe. He also learned how to ski and swim at this resort because the staff was supportive and understood him. As he aged into adulthood and was more independent, he was also more comfortable being alone in our condo. That’s when his dad and I went and did activities that held no interest for him. Finding that perfect fit for your kid is a blessing and more and more resorts are training their staff about autism now. Don’t be afraid to ask if they are familiar with autism. You may even find the staff at the child care center has the skills to help out too which means Mama and Papa get some most important time alone.
Travel is Essential
Travel has been an essential part of our lives as an autism family. We’ve learned how to prepare, anticipate issues, choose activities that work for my son and fit in some fun for the grown ups too. In many ways, my son has become as good a traveler as any other well traveled adult. I asked him what his favorite part of travel is and he answered, “getting time with you!” Of course that makes my heart sing and reinforces for me the importance of travel. My hope for you is that you also discover how much bonding and growth can happen through travel. It really can be magical! We started early and just kept going and you can too!