The November issue of Metro Parent features an interview with our very own Shayla Whitt, Supervising BCBA. While traveling can be challenging for children on the autism spectrum, there are different steps you can take to prepare yourself and your family for the most positive traveling experience.
No matter the length of the trip or whether you’re in a car or plane or train, Shayla emphasizes packing comfort items as well as many fun activities. With the unfamiliarity of travel, the comfort item will help your child feel safe and provide consistency from their normal surroundings. A comfort item could be anything from a blanket to a favorite stuffed animal or action figure. It is also important to pack enough activities to keep your child preoccupied throughout the entire excursion. These could include games, puzzles, or any other activities your child enjoys. If the activities include electronic devices, don’t forget to bring headphones, a charger, or extra batteries.
Don’t be afraid to get creative either. You could create sensory toys such as “Filling a water bottle with sand, put tiny objects in it, and make a game out of it,” asking questions like “How fast can you find the blue marble?” Shayla suggests. For children with verbal language, try playing I Spy or the Alphabet Game. Just be sure to plan out a list of mental games beforehand to be prepared.
Planes, Trains, and Other Transportation
For other modes of transportation, try exposing your child ahead of time to what they might expect on the trip. Shayla suggests showing your child pictures and videos of the airport/airplane or train station/train or a cruise ship beforehand to help them understand where they’re going. If possible, try to arrange a trial run or a visit ahead of time to explore the space so that it’s not a strange place when the actual travel day arrives.
Routines are important to your child and Shayla recommends creating a visual schedule for your next trip to help with routine. A visual schedule will help your child know what to expect next on this new adventure you’re going on. That first you start at home, then get to the airport, then get on the plane, then eat lunch on the plane, then get off the plane, then drive to Grandma’s house.
Mimicking as much of a normal bedtime routine as possible will provide a source of comfort for your child. “Bring your child’s favorite bedding from home, and do bath-time, pajamas, book and bed at the regular time for consistency,” Shayla says. You want to emphasize the same routine, simply a different place. Lastly, don’t forget to make the trip fun and offer praise to your child for how well they are doing and encourage them to enjoy the trip.
To see the article in full, visit Metro Parent here.