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Going on Vacation: 20 Tips for Parents with Aspergers Children

Some parents find it hard enough to venture out to the grocery store with an Aspergers youngster, much less go on a week-long vacation. Like most things, it takes a little planning and preparation. An Aspergers youngster tends to react much better when he knows what to expect.

Even “neurotypical” (i.e., children without Aspergers) kids tend to become irritable and frustrated in constantly changing environments, crowds, and loud noise – but for the Aspergers youngster, these things are magnified and can frustrate him to the point of boiling-over.

Grown-ups with Aspergers tend to become withdrawn when they are over-stimulated or stressed, but Aspie kids tend to externalize their stress, which often leads to a meltdown. As a parent of an Aspergers youngster, you will face unique challenges when you break his normal routine. Trying the strategies below can make vacations easier for both you and your Aspie:

1. Always travel with comfort food and toys. “Toys” is a broad ranging term, meaning anything from stuffed animals for your youngster to an iPod for your husband.

2. Prepare to be flexible. Even the best laid plans can go awry, especially with an Aspergers child as part of the group. You were going to have a great family reunion, and then your Aspergers youngster had a meltdown. That's ok! Just tell the family "Randy isn't feeling well, and we'll need to take off early." Head back to Hotel, put on a video, and kick back. After all, it's your vacation, right?

3. Bring your routine along. As much as possible, attempt to stick to your youngster's normal home routine while you are away. When you must break the routine, make sure to prepare your youngster in advance for what is to come.

4. Check into the all the possibilities. You may have decided against Disneyland based on noise level or food issues. But think again. Disneyland, like many destinations, offers a variety of options for different kinds of visitors. Before you decide that a place will not suit your family, ask about special services and amenities. Research the options and find services that suit your special needs.

5. Choose "off" times for fun. Most Aspergers children do better with quiet, low-key experiences. If it is summer and you're at the beach, hit the waves early or late in the day or year. If you're considering a theme park, wait until fall or early spring. Early Sunday morning is a great time to explore popular museums.

6. Choose your destination wisely. As you plan your vacation, choose a place that is as calm and quiet as possible. You can find plenty of quieter options that are still lots of fun (e.g., a lake) that take into account your desire for something new and different and your youngster's dislike for noisy, chaotic environments.

7. Chances are that, sometime during your vacation, you'll run into someone who will make a judgmental comment about you, your family, and your Aspergers child. That someone should not be allowed to spoil your vacation. Be prepared to ignore rude comments and move on to the next activity.

8. Have a plan. Before going on vacation, think about what you will be doing and plan some activities that you know your Aspergers youngster is comfortable with and will enjoy.

9. Keep it simple. Don't plan too much for any one day, and remember that this is vacation. Try not to make plans that can't be changed if your Aspergers child has a tough day.

10. Keep your sense of humor throughout the trip.

11. Look for special hotel accommodations. When selecting a hotel, think about what special amenities (e.g., an in-room refrigerator and dining area) might make your youngster more comfortable. Be sure to put in your requests in advance at the time of your booking.

12. Make a memory. Take pictures of the event and work with your youngster to make a book of pictures that can help your youngster remember the things that you did.

13. Pack familiar things. Bring some familiar things from home, such as favorite bedding or a personal DVD player, to make your youngster more comfortable.

14. Bring earplugs and snacks for plane trips, music and picnic food for car trips, and portable music and video for all long-distance travel.

15. Practice beforehand. In the days and weeks leading up to the event, use role-play and rehearsal to let your youngster practice and learn how to deal with the upcoming social situations.

16. Tools like visual planners and social stories can make all the difference to your youngster's experience. If you're going back to a place you've been before, make a memory book from last year's photos. If not, use the Web to find images from Google or tourism websites. You can also create a personalized "social story," describing the whats, wheres, whos and whens of your planned vacation.

17. Relax. If you are stressed, your youngster will sense it. So stay calm and relax as much as possible so that you can enjoy yourself and decrease your youngster's anxiety.

18. Structure your days. It's true that vacations are supposed to be opportunities to kick back and take things as they come. For a child with Aspergers, however, unplanned time can be extremely stressful. That doesn't mean a planned activity for every hour of the day, but it does mean a daily structure.

19. Travel during less-crowded times. Instead of taking a flight at the same time everyone else does, book an off day or during low season to reduce stress and receive more attention and service.

20. Consider shorter vacations. Rather than going on the traditional week-long excursion, consider a “weekend get-away” or a 4-day trip. Why go away for 7 days if the last 3 days are going to be pure hell.

It may not be effortless to enjoy a vacation when your youngster has Aspergers, but with some planning and adjustments, you can make these occasions memorable events that your whole family can enjoy.

My Aspergers Child: Preventing Meltdowns 


COMMENTS:

•    Anonymous said... Can you get a disability pass from Disney for a child with ADHD and Aspergers? I doubt my son will tolerate the lines so, I was hoping to get a pass to cut the time down.
•    Anonymous said... I learned last year onour trip to Universal that my boys need to know what is going to happen on amusement park rides to help with their anxieties about them. We are planning a trip to Disney next year and I plan on researching the rides beforehand. I want to have detailed descriptions of them so that my sons can look over them so they will have an idea of what is coming.
•    Anonymous said... I've learned I have to tell my son ahead of time before we go anywhere. He needs to know where we are going and why. I also try to give him an estimate of how long it should take. Giving him something to do like "can you put the items in the cart when we find them" is another good thing to keep his mind on a task instead of just dreading his walking way through a store for 20 minutes.
•    Anonymous said... We are wanting to go camping this summer, so we are preparing our son by going on short outings to where we want to camp, and making each trip there a little longer. We are also finding out what we will need to bring for him as entertainment as well, with each trip we take we learn more Hope you all have a wonderful summer!

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3 comments:

pimalai resort koh lanta said...

These are great tips. It is always harder to spend a vacation if your child has Aspergers. But this doesnt mean that you should not try to enjoy the most out of these breaks. It may be fun if you managed to control the situation.

Anonymous said...

This group explains so much of my son's behaviors over the years before diagnosis! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

My son was just officially diagnosed. He is 8. The school has said for two years that he was autistic but since he has been able to communicate, I brushed it off. Now reading up on all this stuff, it makes more sense.

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

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