8 Tips for Traveling with Kids with Autism

As parents, traveling with kids can be difficult enough, but what if one of the kids has autism? If you’re planning a family trip anytime soon and your child has autism, here are 8 tips that will make your trip more enjoyable for everyone involved

1. Use checklists

*Consider the child’s safety needs. *Consider the child’s sensory needs. *Find out about any special services or supplies that may be needed for the child. *Plan to spend extra time at security checkpoints, baggage claim, and immigration lines. *Look at how much carry-on luggage can be brought on board. *Ask airlines if they offer a program to help families with children who have disabilities or special needs through the airport and onto the plane.

2. Choose your battles (the ones you cannot win, let go)

-Lines: It is possible that your child may need to wait in line and not want to leave. If they are not able to do this then it will be important that you let them go without any fuss. 

-Transportation: A lot of children with autism can become anxious if they are unable to see out the window, or feel like they’re moving when they’re actually still. Try seating them in an aisle seat so they can get up and move around easily if needed.

3. Prepare both physically and mentally

-Make sure to plan in advance and get the okay from your child’s doctor. 

-Educate yourself on the destination, any necessary immunizations, and any special needs. 

-Pack what you will need in advance to make things easier when you travel. 

-Be aware of potential triggers at the destination that may cause an autistic child to act out. -Know your child’s limits and work within those boundaries.

4. Consult your child’s doctor

It is important to consult your child’s doctor before traveling. Your child’s doctor can let you know how long you can be away from home and which areas are okay to visit. It is also important to have a plan in place for what to do if your child has a meltdown or an outburst during the trip.

5. Learn how to get out of sticky situations

If your child is having a meltdown, try to remove them from the situation and calm them down. Sometimes this means leaving an event early. If you’re at a restaurant and your child is too distracted to eat, order something they know they like so that they feel satisfied. And if you’re out with other kids who are interested in something new, let your kids be the kid who stays behind and explores their surroundings while the other kids explore their interests.

6. Never sacrifice your child’s safety

If your child is nonverbal or has other special needs, it may be difficult to explain to airport security what is wrong and why you are traveling with them. We recommend bringing a letter from your doctor that explains the situation if possible, but at the very least have a list of words written out on an index card that you can point to. The TSA agent will still ask questions, but this will help shorten it and make things easier on both of you.

7. Don’t expect them to adapt to new environments easily, accept this early on

Don’t expect them to adapt to new environments easily, accept this early on. Getting children with autism used to a new environment is often a slow process and it can take weeks or months before they feel comfortable. To make the process go more smoothly, try this:

Arrange your itinerary so that you are at the same place for at least one night before moving on. This will give your child time to get used to the surroundings and get familiar with the people around him/her.

8. Set boundaries and stick to them

Setting boundaries and sticking to them is crucial when traveling with kids on the autism spectrum. Here are 8 tips that can help you enjoy your trip, too. 

– Know and let your family know where you will be at all times. 

– Let everyone know if there’s an emergency contact number they should call if they need to reach you while you’re away from home. – If possible, share a room or area of the house with the children so it feels like home.

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