I regularly meet parents with kids on the autism spectrum who have serious misconceptions about traveling with traveling with autism.
I can relate to those who have tried to travel with their child and encountered mishaps, but what I find most alarming is the high percentage of parents that base their decisions on other people’s stories or even Internet misinformation.
Since our website, AutisticGlobetrotting, is about to celebrate its third year of existence, I thought it would be helpful to debunk some of these misconceptions once and for all in the hope this might inspire or even encourage some of you to go ahead and finally plan that summer vacation you’ve been dreaming of.
Planning travel with an autistic child is time -consuming and expensive.
The essential element in the planning stages is notifying the airlines, cruise lines and hotels of your child’s disability, and decide what accommodations you might what to request.
You can usually ask for most accommodations by e-mail, which makes it cheaper and faster, particularly if you should need to contact people overseas. From my experience, most companies in the travel industry will try and provide the necessary accommodations at no extra charge.
Always remember to store your correspondence in a file on your computer, and then send a gentle reminder to all the people you’ve contacted a week before your day of departure, in case they forgot about you.
The TSA treats autistic travelers and family badly.
Over the years, the TSA has come under fire for causing unnecessary stress to many families; especially those traveling with special needs kids.
We’ve flown over 200 flights in the last decade without an incident; simply by letting the agent know upon arrival at the airport that our son was autistic and that I would be accompanying him to the checkpoint.
This month the TSA has come out with new guidelines for autistic travelers that include allowing kids to stay with parents during the check, and that parents or caregivers may advise the agent on how to proceed with the security check depending on the child’s particular disability.
Flying with a child on the autism spectrum is a nightmare.
No, not usually.
Although flights may not as traveler-friendly as they used to be, it is still doable. All you need is to notify the airline in advance of any accommodations like bulk or aisle seating, pre-boarding( so that you can get your family settled faster) and wheelchair assistance if you have to navigate between terminals in the larger airports.
Remember to pack a snack or two for the flight and keep your kid busy with movies, video games, books on tape, or coloring books just like you would do at home or on a long car ride.
My child will not be comfortable in a hotel room.
Since most kids with autism thrive on routine and familiarity, the best choice for hotels would be sticking with one or two chains such as Starwood, IHG, or Marriott because they tend to design their layout the same way in each hotel worldwide.When booking a hotel room, you should ask for a quiet room away from noisy areas like elevators,
restaurants, and conference rooms and on a high floor if you are staying on a busy street.
Some hotels offer hypoallergenic rooms and pillows, too.If you know that your family won’t feel comfortable in a hotel setting there are alternative lodging options like apartment hotels or private home rentals from companies like Airbnb you can book that are even more budget friendly.
I hate it when my child acts up and everybody stares.
Now this issue is one that we can probably all relate to and understand; however, it shouldn’t deter you.
I remember my public speaking professor telling our class at the beginning of his course that the trick to speaking in front of a large crowd was envisioning everyone in their underwear.
You should keep in mind that most if not all people watching you and your kid don’t actually ‘know’ you, so you shouldn’t care much what they think about your parenting skills or your child’s behavior.And the silver lining is that mastering the art of ignoring disparaging remarks or looks from strangers will not only make you a better parent but is bound to teach your kid a much-needed life skill as well.