Pros and Cons of Wheelchair Assistance When Traveling With Autism

Pros and Cons of Wheelchair Assistance When Traveling With Autism

 

Hi Margalit,

I’m Darla from Florida, and I read your blog regularly.
It helps reading and being able to relate to the things you write. I have a daughter who is seven years old and diagnosed with severe autism. She is non-verbal but not aggressive to others. It doesn’t happen often, but when she gets stressed out in a public setting, she flaps and pulls her hair and bites herself and refuses to walk.

We have a family reunion coming up, and we’re planning to fly with Swiss Air to Romania. Unfortunately, I couldn’t book anything direct so that we will be taking multiple flights in a thirty hour period.

Our itinerary is Florida to Newark, Newark to Frankfurt with a short layover and then Frankfurt to Bucharest. I know that we can ask the airline for accommodations for our daughter and I was thinking of requesting wheelchair assistance.

I feel a bit uncomfortable since my daughter is not wheelchair bound per se, but like I said before if she is going to get stressed and have a meltdown, chances are it will be in a new environment like an airport especially when we will have had to change planes quickly. 

Do you have any thoughts about this? 

 

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Dear Darla,

Thanks for contacting me. I’m glad that you have been able to get encouragement and support from my blog.
It is true that wheelchair assistance was initially created to help passengers who were specifically wheelchair-bound or who may have any other mobility issues; temporary or otherwise.

With that said, I feel that certain families traveling with autism should and can use this service. This service will help parents negotiate larger ports especially if their kids tire easily or get stressed out fast like you said your daughter does.

I need to tell you, however, that this service offered is not foolproof.

 

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Wheelchair Assistance Pros

The pros are that passengers are picked up literally at the aircraft door in a wheelchair. They are then taken to their next flight by the airport staff without having to wait or stop for most airport checks.

Passengers using the wheelchair service are shuttled through the airport by designated carts that are reserved for that purpose. The staff also helps with luggage or any personal belongings that these passengers might have.

This assistance can help families especially when airports are large with multiple terminals they are not acquainted with and if there is quite a distance to walk between the buildings. Also, airport staff helps passengers requiring wheelchair assistance not only with immigration and security checks but to board the aircraft before the other passengers and even settle in their seats.

 

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Wheelchair Assistance Cons

However, there are also several cons that the families should think about before opting for this service.

The first is the fact that although you board the aircraft first, you are usually last to get off. Therefore, you have to wait patiently in your seat for the airport staff to come and get you. This wait may not be feasible for a child with autism.

Sometimes if the airport staff is busy, they might make you wait even longer until they come and get you which can amount to additional waiting time. That extra time can be frustrating and add to the meltdown.

Another issue is if you have a couple of hours in between flights. The airline may request that you wait patiently in a designated area instead of walking around the airport or going off on your own to eat or shop. The designated area is not necessarily kid-friendly, so you need to provide some toys or electronic devices to occupy your kid during the waiting time.

In your case, since your child is rather young and nonverbal, it may be beneficial for your family to use this service. This way, you can get the extra help you need in both Newark and Frankfurt airports. They are both large and maybe somewhat daunting especially for those not acquainted with the layout.

You didn’t mention the duration of your layover in Frankfurt, so I assume it is short. If it is longer than two hours I recommend that you contact the airline. Ask if you can be directed to the airport children’s play area and food venues to pass the time.

 

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Concluding Thoughts

In my opinion and experience, I think that in some cases such as yours, the pros outweigh the cons.
I would suggest that you make use of the wheelchair assistance for your outgoing journey. If it is not beneficial for your needs, then you can cancel it for your return trip.

Have a wonderful reunion with your family, and I wish you well on your flights.

 

Our Plane Etiquette Tips for Parents of Children with Autism

 

Our Plane Etiquette Tips

In today’s travel world, space on aircraft is extremely restricted. Therefore, people on the autism spectrum might find flying more challenging than other modes of transportation. Parents and educators should impart basic etiquette rules so that their children can interact better with their fellow flyers. Here are some situations we’ve dealt with while flying, and how we’ve managed them.

Armrest Battles

The dilemma of how to divide four armrests between three is hard enough to figure out between adults. However, it is even more difficult to explain to children with autism. These kids often have a different innate sense of appropriate social cues and personal space from a neurotypical person.

Our Plane Etiquette Tips for Parents of Children with Autism seat

To bypass the conundrum, we’ve always tried to choose an aisle or window seat for our children. This way, they can use one complete armrest and get some extra space to lean against comfortably.

Kicking Seats

Many children with autism like to stim, and seat kicking on airplanes is one of the most common stim methods. Despite our many attempts to curb this behavior, our son tends to shake his legs on flights rhythmically. His leg shaking inevitably disturbs fellow passengers.

Our solution, which we recommend to other families, has been to book bulk seats when possible. When we can’t do this, we reserve two consecutive aisle seats, one in front of the other, so that we can sit front of him.

Our Plane Etiquette Tips for Parents of Children with Autism seats

Headphones

Many travelers like our son enjoy the onboard entertainment channels. Our son can become so engrossed that he do not remove his headphones at any time during the flight. However, for a child with autism, this can result in speaking excessively loudly and disturbing those who wish to sleep or work quietly.

To prevent this, parents should teach their child to remove their headphones when they need to communicate.

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Trash

In the past, our son loved hoarding items like newspapers, napkins, and empty glasses around his sitting area. He often created a mess and obscured personal valuables which he later lost.

After years of training and several lost I-Pods our son learned the responsibility of keeping his seating area tidy. For other parents, it is important to teach children always to throw away what isn’t needed and keep an eye on personal belongings.

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Aisle Space

On many flights, passengers waiting in the aisle for a turn to use the restroom tend to slouch or lean over the seated passengers in the back rows. This situation can especially happen with children with autism due to how they typically understand personal space differently from those who do not have autism.

To help a child avoid an awkward or aggressive situation, parents should suggest they use the bathroom before meals are served and an hour before landing. This way, their child will not be taking up space where people are already traveling and will have plenty of room to lean somewhere other than over other people.

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Beverage Spills

Spills can happen at any time, especially if a child has poor motor skills and is trying to move around in a tight space. Children traveling on a plane for the first time might also not be used to maneuvering in the smaller quarters.

To minimize the chance of spills happening, we’ve taught our son not to ask for the entire can and only order a small glass of beverage each time. We encourage him to drink each glass as soon as possible instead of having it stay in the tray or cup holder for any length of time.

Overhead Bin

As our son grew older and wanted to help us with the luggage, we faced the challenge of teaching him how to do it safely. He would often misjudge where the luggage was going to land and hit other passengers on the way down.

Our Plane Etiquette Tips for Parents of Children with Autism bin

Instead of him trying hard to “guess-estimate” the distance between the suitcase and fellow passengers’ heads, he now provides a friendly verbal warning to make sure that no one gets hurt when he pulls his bag down from the overhead bin. We highly recommend other families teach their children with autism to do the same.

 

Have you flown with your special needs child? If so, what etiquette tips have you shared with them?

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How to Spend the First Ten Minutes in your Hotel Room

 

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Like so many others, when we first started traveling as a family, the first thing we would do after checking into our hotel was we tossed our suitcases in our room and left. We never gave a second thought to checking anything in the room. However, after multiple mishaps, some literally in the middle of the night, we learned that if we wanted to experience a pleasant and uneventful stay, we should dedicate the first ten minutes after entering our hotel room to checking the following:

Hotel Room Balcony Lock

I usually advise families with young children to avoid, for safety reasons, booking hotel rooms with balconies. If that’s not a possibility, then do check to make sure the lock works well. You don’t want to be stuck on either side.

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Room Fireplace

Booking a room with a fireplace though romantic as it may sound to some is also on my no-no list when traveling with kids.However, if your booked room has one, make sure to ask the hotel for a proper fireplace cover, and ask them how to disable the system if it operates on gas to prevent any mishaps.

The Air-Conditioning

Our son with autism is extremely temperature-sensitive, so five degrees up or down can make a big difference for him. Therefore, one of the things we make sure to learn is how to change settings and turn the mechanisms on and off. We also crank the system up if it isn’t on already and check to make sure it not only works well but stays on since we’ve had two cases where the system short-circuited after several minutes and left the room hot and stuffy in the middle of the night.

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 Plumbing

There’s nothing quite like a toilet or tub that backs up when you flush the water down or turn on the shower in the middle of the night. We’ve had times when we discovered plumbing problems when we returned to our hotel after an exhausting day and had to sit and wait for maintenance to show up and repair these things.

While I’m addressing the subject of water; it’s best to check and make sure the shower, faucets, and toilet aren’t dripping, since the sound can be quite annoying when you are trying to sleep, especially if anyone in your family is noise sensitive.

How to Spend the first 10 minutes in your hotel room bathroom

The TV

I know this might not be an issue that would come to the minds of many travelers. However, it can and will be a big deal to families with children, especially those who have children with autism. My son needs his daily Nickelodeon or Disney fix, so unless I prepare him in advance to the fact that the hotel network does not have these channels, he expects to be able to watch them and might have a meltdown if he won’t be able to.

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Bed Bugs

In today’s world, bed bug infestations are much more commonplace than you might think.
It is critical to check your room for bed bugs before unpacking anything, as travelers who pick up bed bugs usually have to throw out the infested items. If you want to avoid bites and the possibility of bringing unwanted ‘souvenirs’ back home, lift up the bed mattress and check its corners for telltale black dots or tiny blood stains.
Also, you should always keep your suitcases on a rack since bedbugs find it harder to reach or climb certain surfaces. If you do find bed bugs, be sure to report the infestation to the hotel staff. You should demand a room change or receive a refund from the hotel.

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The Nearest Exit

Make sure you read the exit map posted on the back of your room door and furthermore, teach your children the location of the nearest stairs to use, in the case of a fire. If you have the time, take an extra five minutes and walk to the nearest exit with them, so they know where it is.

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Do you check your hotel room when you first arrive? What do you check for?

Ten Questions and Tips for Families Flying with Autism

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Flying can be a stressful experience filled with lots of complicating factors. Families with autism will likely run into problems adjusting to the often confusing, overstimulating environment of an airplane. Not to mention that most airlines do not have the ability to provide every accommodation, so parents are often on their own. The following is a list of the top ten most frequently asked questions from parents traveling with their children with autism that we get at Autistic Globetrotting, with answers that should hopefully make your next trip with your kid much easier.

1. My son won’t keep his shoes on during flights. What can we do?

Take his shoes off when you first board the plane and place them under the seat in front of you. You could also bring a special bag to put them inside of, and then store them in the overhead bin. If you take them off when you first board you can prevent him from taking them off and throwing them or possibly having a tantrum because he cannot get them off easily in the cramped quarters.

 

2. My son loves buttons. I’m afraid he’ll continually press the buttons on the airplane. Is there any way to mitigate this?

Explain this to the flight attendant when you first board the plane. Also bring a small toy that has a lot of buttons. A familiar or fidget based toy should distract him before he becomes inquisitive about the ones next to him. There are many fidget toys you can find on places like Amazon, so it shouldn’t be difficult to find something that will keep your son focused.Ten Questions and Tips for Families Flying with Autism food

3. My daughter is a picky eater and hates airplane food. How should we make sure she’s not hungry?

Bring her favorite snacks on the plane. I highly suggest feeding her before you board, maybe even before you get to the airport if you know there won’t be anything she likes in the terminal.

 

4. My child gets frequent stomachaches/headaches; should I pack meds or do they have them on board?

They cannot dispense medications on the plane. It would be wise to bring your own OTC medications before you board, or ask your doctor about taking them prophylactically before boarding.

5. I’m always reluctant to ask for pre-boarding as others might judge me or make nasty comments. Is this something I should worry about?

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You should, by all means, ask for preboarding. Since you will be among the first to board, you likely would not hear any rude or ignorant comments anyway. Furthermore, many disabilities are invisible in nature: diabetes, seizure disorders, heart failure, and others. It would be only out of pure ignorance that someone would judge you for looking out for your child’s special needs.

6. My teen stims and keeps kicking the seat in front. In one instance someone almost hit him. How can we prevent this from happening?

Ask for a bulkhead or aisle seat and insist on one if possible. Should you not get the seat you requested, carry autism information cards with you to inform your seat neighbors. If your child truly makes the flight unpleasant for the person in front, you could offer to buy them a cocktail or internet service while in flight, with a sincere apology. Kindness goes a long way!

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7. My toddler is scared of loud noises. Where should we sit on the plane?

First of all, bring noise canceling headsets if possible. Second, the front of the plane is the least noisy. Avoid sitting right over the landing gear or in the far back at all costs.

8. My son needs a lot of personal space. What do I do?

Unless you can afford to fly in first class, your options are rather limited. Bulkhead seats do provide a bit more room, so we would recommend booking those. You can also have your child sit in an aisle seat for more legroom, but make sure that they don’t accidentally trip people walking through the aisles.

9. My kid always spills his food on himself and around us. How can I prevent it?

There is no way to cure clumsiness, but you can practice at home by playing “the plane game” before you leave and by modeling safer ways to move cups and liquids. You can also pack a small, plastic Dollar Tree table cloth and use that over your lap and theirs. Should something get spilled, you can toss it or ask the flight attendant to dispose of it. Also, alert the flight attendant of your child’s tendency and ask them to fill their drink low. Keep the can or bottle on your tray table, not theirs, between refills.

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10. My fear is sitting on the tarmac when the plane gets warm, as my son is heat intolerant. How do I help my child stay comfortable?

If you know you will be traveling during hot weather, pack some wet wipes or moist towelettes. You could also pack an empty baggy and right before boarding you could stop at a restaurant in the airport and ask for some ice cubes to place in the baggy. The baggy can be used as a cool compress or your child might find it soothing to suck on ice cubes. Also pack a small, hand-held, battery operated fan to help keep cool.

We hope these answers helped you and your family feel a bit more at ease about your next flight. If you have any questions that weren’t covered here, we would be happy to answer them personally or on our Facebook page. Even if you have a small incident, don’t let it deter you from traveling. We wish you safe and happy travels!

How Packing by Color can Make Family Travel Easier

Like many parents, one of the tasks I dreaded the most when going on vacation was packing and unpacking my family’s suitcases.For years, I’ve looked for a solution to make the process easier and shorter. I tried many recommended methods till I finally devised a system of my own which I fondly nicknamed the ‘Packing by Color’  System that works well for my family (including my son with autism)  and hopefully will work for your family too.

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Reasons to use  the ‘Packing by Color’  system

  • You can carry fewer and or smaller suitcases as you can mix belongings in the same bag and quickly find what item belongs to whom by the color of the tape on the bag.
  • Clothes are well protected from spills, dirt, and you won’t even have to worry about bringing bed bugs or fleas home if you keep them in the Hefty bags while traveling.
  • If you are tired of hearing ” Mom, where are my shorts/ socks/ t- shirt?” this system is for you. It will promote independence with kids of all ages; teaching them to find their clothes in a hotel room quickly by identifying their personal bags and get ready for the daily activities on their own.
  • Unpacking at the hotel becomes a breeze since each family member can grab their marked Hefty bags out of the suitcases and place them in their own designated drawer or shelf. The ‘packing by color’  system is especially useful if your vacation includes multiple stops that involve several rounds of packing and unpacking.
  • It provides parents with an efficient way to sort laundry items when they return home after vacation so they can wash dirty clothes in an organized manner and get back to their daily routine as soon and seamlessly as possible.
  • Moreover, each family member can do their separate wash and deal with his/her clothes again promoting life skills and independence especially in teens and young adults.How Packing by Color can Make Family Travel Easier bottles

How the system works

  • Designate a color

Start by allocating a travel color for each member of your family. In our case my older son is yellow, my younger son blue, my husband green and orange for myself. (Make sure it is a primary and easy-to-find color since you will have to shop for items in that color at places like the local dollar store and Target)

From this point on any item for that person will be in that color whether it is a travel toothbrush, a water bottle, swim trunks, beach flip flops or even suitcase tag.

  • Get colored duct tape in the chosen colors

Buy a roll of duct tape in your chosen color/s to mark any personal items you won’t find to buy in the color you need.

  • Use Hefty bags

After initially starting with space bags we soon came to realize they were pricey, and you couldn’t actually use them for more than a few times.So we have begun using the large  2.5 gallons Hefty bags that are a fraction of the cost and can be utilized on most trips at least twice in a row.
After we roll our clothes and put them in the bag, we can save precious space by squeezing the air out before putting them in the suitcase. The bag does a good job of keeping the clothes fresh and dry should any mishap happen to your bag like sitting out in the pouring rain or getting dropped into the ocean while boarding a cruise ship.

  • Label bags/items appropriately

We mark each person’s Hefty bags with the appropriate color tape.
So, my clothes would be in the orange labeled bags; my husband‘s in the green bags and so on. The duct tape ensures quick identification of items and whom they belong to when we arrive at the hotel.
It is convenient to write on the duct tape what things you put in each bag so you can make sure you don’t switch around and use a  bag that housed your shoes for clean items like underwear for example.
Furthermore,  you can distinguish between dirty and clean things by writing on the tape too–which is helpful on the way back home from your vacation.
Special Tip: Make sure you pack a couple of extra bags in case they tear, or the zipper breaks down.
Do you have a unique method to pack and unpack when traveling with your kids? Share your tips with us.

 

How Packing by Color can Make Family Travel Easier shoes

 

Ten Lessons We Learned from Traveling with Our Kids

Ten Lessons We Learned from Traveling with Our Kids pin

We as parents are entrusted with teaching our children to prepare them for life. However, now and then there is a bit of role reversal, and we learn from them. In all our years of traveling with our two sons, we realized that our children had a lot to teach us. Here are ten lessons we learned from them that made our life journey what it is today.

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Don’t Postpone Traveling

Years disappear in the blink of an eye. Waiting until the children get older to take them traveling just wastes valuable time. Kids age quickly and travel opportunities will be missed. Parents should take every opportunity to expose their children to the world as much and as early as possible.

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Always Research

For families to make the most of their holidays, they should never visit a destination about which they know absolutely nothing. In the past, aspiring travelers relied on a network travel agents, friends and family recommendations. However, in today’s social media world parents have so many options to get prepared. One can utilize TripAdvisor, flyer talk, YouTube, and countless blogs to research and make educated decisions. Information about everything from appropriate lodging, places to eat and places of interest are all at one’s fingertips.

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Create a Viable Itinerary

Families shouldn’t expect to see everything the first time visiting a location. Parents should always schedule enough resting time between activities so that nobody gets overwhelmed. Scheduling rest time is of particular importance when traveling with older people or those with special needs. Also, travelers should consider any weather and terrain conditions as such factors can lengthen a trip and add frustration.

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Get Insurance

Many travelers don’t want to pay extra for travel insurance. We didn’t either, but we quickly found out what a huge mistake that was in our travels. Any traveler should always get covered for any unexpected delays or medical expenses that can quickly run into the thousands of dollars, especially with international travel. The insurance also covers lost luggage or cancellations should plans change, an important factor for families.

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Pack Wisely

Any items that require special care simply aren’t good travel companions. Travelers should leave clothes that wrinkle easily or are dry-clean only at home. The same applies to any bulky items like platform shoes or cumbersome bags. Something that we used to do for our own children was to pack all their oldest clothing and let them wear the outfits one last time before discarding them. This strategy helped free up room for extra souvenirs when we traveled back home.

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Have Patience

One of the things we learned early on in our travels was that different people and cultures don’t necessarily work on one’s rhythm and schedule. There’s a lot for any traveler to adjust to when visiting a new place. Anyone who wants to have the best time while traveling needs to have patience, especially when visiting other countries.

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Be Tolerant of Others

Bad experiences always happen during travel. Those who have a bad incident on their travels shouldn’t let it change their opinion of an entire country. There are always friendly people out there that will try to help those in need. Travelers should always try to see the other side of things and understand why people react the way they do.

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Politeness Can Go a Long Way

Parents should ask politely for what they need and repeat if necessarily. In most cases, it is best to keep a calm demeanor and ask for help politely, even if one has been wronged. Most people respond better to polite requests and smiles than rude comments or yelling.

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Never Say Never

Travel is all about opening up to new opportunities, providing families with the perfect excuse to try new foods and activities. Travelers should never assume that new things are bad, or that they won’t like something they’ve never tried. Parents especially should encourage their kids to try things at least once and form their individual opinion.

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Self Analyze

Upon returning home, travelers should go over what went wrong during the trip so as to learn from mistakes and not repeat them or even worse – decide not to travel because of them. Even more importantly, everyone involved should look at the good and see how they can repeat what they have learned on the next trip.

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Have you started traveling with your kids yet? What lessons have you learned from your experiences?

How Families with Autism Can Benefit from Using Hotel Chains

 

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Hotel chains do not immediately appear to the average family as the most comfortable or budget friendly option. But staying in chain hotels carries unexpected benefits for families, especially those with a family member with autism. Here are the four benefits my family and I see for other families with autism staying in chain hotels.

Familiarity

Though the similar looking rooms in each different location may look uninteresting to some patrons, this might be a selling point to families traveling with autism. Guests with autism can get used to the visual layout of the room. Family members with autism can feel more relaxed and at home with the usual amenities like the same brand soap, slippers, and even TV channels. Some chains even have the same smells sprayed in their lobby and use the same amenity kits companies for their bathrooms. These little things can help ease the stress of staying away from home, especially for kids with autism.

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Accruing Points Leads to More Free Stays

If you stay loyal to one or two major chains, you are on your way to earning free night stays and status building with the companies. By earning points, travelers can get freebies like Wi-Fi, water in the room, and access to the executive lounge. These little perks can add up so that you and your family can afford to travel more frequently.

Since these hotel chains make note of your preferences on your profile web page that can make your family’s stay more comfortable. For special needs families, this is especially useful. The chain keeps track, worldwide, of special requests, like feather-free bedding, quiet rooms away from elevators, and food allergies.

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Your Complaints Carry Weight

In today’s travel world where customer service is scaled down, this is an extra bonus. As a loyal patron with status, the company will listen, care, and try to correct whatever is wrong faster. Legally, the hotel companies can’t ask customers what their special needs are. Therefore, it is up to you to be proactive and let them know about your needs and how they can accommodate your family.

Our advice is to write a list of what your child is sensitive to and what they require to help make them feel comfortable in a new setting so you can relay this to the staff. After over a decade of travel, our favorite chains for special needs accommodations are Marriot, SPG, Fairmont, and Sofitel.

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The Marriott chain boasts a great model that other hotel chains should follow. The company has a special accessibility desk that families can be transferred to and speak with after making their reservation. Patrons can tell the staff member what exact accommodations their family requires, and they will note them on the reservation and even contact the property to make sure they are followed. This way the chain can address personal preferences such as air room purifiers, allergen free, feather free, and chemical free special needs.

The Fairmont hotel chain also offers chemical-free rooms. However, it is up to each of their properties to deal with traveling family requests individually. They do offer pet-friendly or pet-free rooms by request. The chain has also expanded, in the past few years, their gluten free options in most of their properties.

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Welcoming Service Animals

Under the 1990 ADA public access law, hotels must allow service animals. Hotels also cannot charge a direct pet fee for the stay. However, many places do charge a fee for cleaning up after the pet. For families traveling with service dogs, it is helpful to request a room close to the lobby area. This way, owners can easily go outside for potty breaks. Families with noise sensitive kids can bring an artificial patch of grass to put in the room’s bathroom instead.

Some hotel chains, like SPG and Fairmont, go out of their way to make service dogs extra welcome by pampering them with special beds, treats, and even freshly prepared meals to order.

In Summation

The main issue to remember when searching for a chain to accommodate your special needs traveler is to communicate your concerns and requests to the chain representative and the hotel staff. It never hurts to ask for any accommodations you may require. Often the hotel representatives will go out of their way to help you. It is important for parents to remember that by finding a hotel chain that fits your family needs, and sticking with one or two hotel chains when possible, will go a long way towards creating stability and familiarity for your child with autism and help them enjoy their travels better.

It is important for parents to remember that finding one or two hotel chain that fits your family needs, and staying with them frequently, will promote stability and familiarity for your child with autism and help them enjoy their travels better.

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Ten Tips for Successful Museum Visits with Autism

 Museums are fantastic places for learning about history, art, culture and a variety of other subjects, but, unfortunately, some have a reputation for not being very child-friendly.

Taking children, especially those with autism to such establishments might seem like an overwhelming proposition, but with the right approach and proper planning; parents can turn it into a memorable experience for the entire family.

Ten Tips for Successful Museum Visits with Autism carriage

Before you go

Choose a hands-on museum.

Children, in general, and those with autism, in particular, like to touch everything they see. Hence, the quickest way to engage them is at a museum that features hands-on or interactive exhibits.
Luckily more and more institutions
are replacing their old-fashioned showcases with interactive exhibits, so chances are there are quite a few of these establishments in or close to where you live.

 

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Take a virtual tour.

Since many museums offer virtual tours on their websites, it is best to start any introduction by having your child with autism watch one.
By observing your child’s reactions to the presentation, you will be able to gauge whether your child might or not be interested in that particular museum.

Virtual tours are also a way of familiarizing your child with the exhibits and different museum areas. It can prevent a situation of driving to the place and purchasing tickets only to discover your child with autism isn’t interested in viewing anything and insists on leaving.

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Expand the interest.

Before visiting the chosen museum, you should start the conversation, discussing the museum theme like art or science and expand your child’s interest through books and movies.

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Plan to go off hours,

Call the museum and ask the staff when the place is the least crowded so avoid potential frustration for your child if there‘s a long wait for any of the exhibits.If you plan to visit during the summer months, it is best to go after 3 PM when the local summer camp kids have left, and the museum is quieter.

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Download a map.

Nowadays, you can download a  floor map from most museum websites to help you navigate the sections you are planning to see especially if the museum is too vast to explore in a single visit.

Make sure to mark any restrooms and quiet areas on the map to know where to go if it is necessary.

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 Behavior in a public place.

Reiterate to your child that listening to and following staff directives is vital at all times since the museum is a public place and the staff is responsible for the safety of the public and the integrity of the exhibits.

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When you are there

Ask for a discount.


More and more museums are starting to offer family rates and or disability discounts, so it does no harm to ask before purchasing your tickets. If the museum is close to where you live, consider buying an annual family membership.
Such a pass would enable your family to visit several times and enjoy the museum even if the first visit or two don’t go as planned and need to be cut short.

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Ask for a docent tour.

If your child with autism is inexperienced with visiting a museum, find out if there are paid staff members or volunteer docents who can conduct a private highlights tour.

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Take pictures.

Suggest that your child takes photos of all the artifacts with their iPhone or iPad so they can relive their visit experience. Furthermore encourage your child to create a scrapbook and share their story with their classmates to enhance their involvement.

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Don’t attempt to ‘see it all.’.

If your child is young or gets bored quickly, you might want to limit your first few visits to 30-60 minutes as long visits might stress your child and become counterproductive.

If you think your child is enjoying the visit, try to break the stay up by having a snack or lunch break in the cafeteria or picnic area before re-entering.

Ten Tips for Successful Museum Visits with Autism cats

Have you taken your kid with autism to museums-come share your tips!

Teaching Kids with Autism How to Pack

Teaching your Kid with Autism How to Pack suitcase

 

One of the biggest challenges I have faced over my years of family travel was to come up with a simple system to teach my son with autism this life skill: How to pack and unpack efficiently. If you are a parent or caregiver facing the same issue and could use some tips, this post is for you.

 

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Why Traveling with Autism is Beneficial for Families

 

From recent conversations I’ve had with parents to kids with autism, it seems that most focus too much on travel logistics and forget the actual benefits it might bring to their family as a whole and their child as an individual.
Having traveled with my son with special- needs for almost a decade, I can personally attest that the advantages outweigh the hardships by far.

Education

Traveling introduces multiple school disciplines like math, geography, history, and literature into your child’s life through hands-on experience.
Suddenly everything comes to life, and History is no longer some dates in a thick book, but meetings with enthusiastic docents and significant event reenactments.
Math changes from boring homework exercises to calculating tips, money exchange rates, and even daily budgets for different items. Geography is transformed from glossy pictures in a school textbook to rock climbing mountain ranges or hiking volcanic parks.
Last but not least, your child is introduced to literature through visiting the towns and homes of famed authors.

In our case, spatial perception and map reading were especially difficult for my son, until he decided he was going to learn to negotiate the Parisian Metro System one summer.
As the saying goes, the rest was history.

 

 

Why Traveling with Autism is Beneficial for Families stacking

 

Art and Music Appreciation

Still in their infancy, our kids were introduced to the beautiful world of art.
We used to take them to every museum in our area as well as galleries and street craft fairs.
Whether it was the masters, modern, cubism or anime, art was anywhere they could experience it.
As we started traveling, we continued and expanded on that concept to include not only world renowned famed museums but local artists studios, beach sand art festivals, and even sidewalk chalk demonstrations.

While traveling, look for free musical performances, Sunday organ concerts at churches, and charity events as well as operas and Broadway musicals. Like art, any exposure to different styles of music will help broaden and expand your child’s horizons.


Culture

With travel comes the continuous exposure to diverse cultures.
All of a sudden, your child can compare and contrast people’s daily lives and customs in different parts of the world.
As a youngster, our son was eager to find similarities between the new places and his hometown, so he kept insisting on checking out McDonald’s, Starbucks, Subway, and other American fast food giants wherever we went.
He was surprised to discover that these fast food chains offer different menus than in the United States, according to local demand. Hence by visiting seemingly ‘unlikely touristy places,’ he still got to be introduced to the differences.

 

Tips to Visiting D-Day Normandy Beaches with Kids shore

 

Promoting Tolerance

Introducing your child to different religions in today’s global community can help shape him or her into becoming a more accepting and tolerant future member of society.
Start by visiting traditional churches, temples and mosques and learning about their unique features and architecture.
If you have the time and opportunity, stay for a community event to witness at first hand a holiday celebration. Over the years, we have visited many different places of worship, and it promoted better understanding in our kids and reinforcing their observation of how similar people and religions truly are.

 Compassion and Empathy

As we started traveling to poorer countries, our sons witnessed poverty, homelessness, and suffering on a global scale. The actual visualization of needy persons made my children realize how they were not the center of the world and how even in small ways they can contribute and influence the outcome of certain events. As our sons grew older, they started coming up with better ideas to help their community and charities.  Over the years, they have been active in collecting toys and school supplies for orphanages in Mexico, glasses for kids in South Africa, the Katrina cleanup, as well as money to save the marine life in the oil-soaked Gulf of Mexico after the BP spill.

 

Why Traveling with Autism is Beneficial for Families baked alaska

 

 Enhancement of Social and Language Skill

One of the things that still fascinate me about travel is the way it helps travelers with autism to adapt and learn to become more flexible.

Even though most parents try to arrange for accommodations for their kids; the truth is that sooner or later they are bound to face some situation that will have no accommodations which will force him or her to deal with day to day challenges like waiting in a queue, facing crowds or practicing manners.
Parents should embrace these incidents and use them as positive teaching stepping stones instead of looking for reasons not to travel with their kids.
Moreover, traveling, also increases opportunities for interacting with other people, which, in turn, help children with autism improve their language and self-advocating skills.

 Experiencing the World in Different Ways

Even though my family and I are not outdoors people, traveling has helped us become more adventurous and try activities we would have never imagined ever considering.
We have successfully tried swimming with dolphins, manatees, and stingrays as well as rock climbing, snorkeling, sea trekking, skydiving, zip-lining, and paragliding.
From starting off as a teen that screamed every time he was dunked into a shallow pool or walked on sand, he has come a very long way. Our experience isn’t unique in any way, it just proves that persistence in exposure can make a huge difference.

 

 

Why Traveling with Autism is Beneficial for Families magic toilets

Food Choices

Another great example of successful continuous exposure lies in the food department.
As a preschooler, my son (like many others) restricted his diet to either Burger King or McDonald’s. With time and perseverance (and quite a bit of bribery) we succeeded in introducing him to global cuisines such as European, Asian, African, and Middle Eastern.

On cruises, we would encourage him to at least take one bite of any food that had a strange texture, odor or looked visually incorrect to him.
One bite progressed to two, then three, and soon the whole dish.
Today he enjoys sampling foods from around the world on weekly basis and is even attempting to cook some of his favorite dishes at home

Spreading Autism Awareness

Everywhere we go, we tell people about autism and answer questions about how our son copes with on his day-to-day life.
We describe the ups and downs of the spectrum and most important of all, how others can help kids like our son.
This kind of exposure gives the world a glimpse into the life of someone with autism and helps people with autism understand the complexities of the world and how their behaviors, especially meltdowns, are judged in reality.

 

Lima’s Magic Water Circuit orange

Family Bonding

During an average day, everyone is preoccupied with daily chores, and it is hard for parents to find adequate time to bond with their kids. That all changes during travel when parents are free of daily chores like driving to activities, cleaning, and cooking, so they can spend RELAXING time with their kids and get to know them better.
Vacation time is also an excellent opportunity to integrate the child with autism in family activities and create lasting family memories.

Sensory Issues

Travel can lay the groundworks for new experiences; hearing different sounds, tasting different foods, seeing new sites, and touching various textures for kids with autism.
However, it is equally important for parents to help continue the learning process at home.
Parents should take their kids to visit local museums, beaches, pools, dine in ethnic neighborhood venues, and listen to different concerts on a regular basis to enhance exposure and combat existing sensory challenges.

 

 

 

 

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