Q&A with Trey Duling VP of Orlando Vacation

What advantages can vacation home rentals offer to families with autism?

The benefits of staying in a holiday home are the extra space for each family member to stretch out and the fully equipped kitchens.
The kitchens are complete with microwave, oven, stove, full-size refrigerator, and all the pots and pans you will need to cook a Thanksgiving feast.
All of our homes have multiple TV’s and multiple full baths which are both very helpful if you have a large family.

Q&A with Trey Duling VP of Orlando Vacation KITCHEN

We feel that staying in a vacation home should be a lot more desirable to a family with an autistic child than staying in a hotel.
For one, the homes have full kitchens, so if a child is on a gluten-free diet, the kitchens make it very easy to stick to the diet and the parents do not have to hunt for restaurants which serve gluten free food.
Also, the noise level in the houses is drastically reduced since these are single family homes with double pane windows. Parents do not have to worry about traffic or other noises which may irritate their child.

What type of vacation home rentals does your company offer?

All of our homes are located within 15 minutes to Disney World, and they are all less than ten years old.
All of our homes come with private pools, and they are all in gated vacation home communities. Many of these communities offer walking trails, multiple playgrounds.Our vacation homes range in price from $99 for a three bedroom during the low season up to $215 a night for a five bedroom home during the high season.
So our rates are very comparable to what a family will find if they booked an average 3-star hotel near Disney.

Q&A with Trey Duling VP of Orlando Vacation BEDROOM

What other special features does your company offer to help families with autism?

We are working with a few owners right now to make some of our vacation homes autism friendly. We are concentrating on two critical areas to make these homes autistic friendly places to stay: safety and sensory.

 To make our homes safer for autistic children we are going to be adding chimes on all the doors which alert a parent if a door is opened, and the pools will have an additional floating alarm which will also alert the parents if there is a large splash or wave created in the pools. We will also be sending the parents multiple pictures of the home before them coming on vacation so they may show the child exactly where they are going to be staying.

Q&A with Trey Duling VP of Orlando Vacation BATHROOM

In the homes, we will make sure the homes do not have fluorescent lights in them, and we are trying to have one room in the house be a sensory room. This room will have dimmer lighting, a yoga bounce ball, and a writing board for the children to doodle on.

 Special Request
We are in the process of working with a local laundry mat which provides chemical free cleaning for the sheets and bedspreads which we can offer to the families for a small upcharge.

Additional features
We are in the process of putting a PDF file together that will contain useful information for parents to know before arrival and during their stay. This PDF can be used as a guide to let the parents know what is located near the vacation homes and will include a compiled list of important places.
The list includes restaurants that have gluten-free items on their menu,  grocery stores and drug stores open 24 hours a day for easy access, directions to the local theme parks, and even the phone number of a local vet in case a service dog happens to get sick or hurt.

Q&A with Trey Duling VP of Orlando Vacation POOL

Orlandovacation.com has been assisting families with their travel plans to Disney World and Orlando since 1993 and is a proud member of the Orlando BBB.The company is currently offering a $50 off coupon on any of their vacation rentals for families staying five nights or longer – Make sure you mention #AUTISM when booking.

Disclaimer: This is a guest post by OrlandoVacation.com

Q&A with Naomi Andjelic Bartlett of ‘Autism Cafe’

Q&A with Naomi Andjelic Bartlett of 'Autism Cafe' pirates

photo credit Autism Cafe

 Why do you prefer an all-inclusive versus cruising?

There are a couple of reasons why cruising isn’t an option for our family at the moment:

  • Our son is on the severe end of the spectrum. He does not always sleep through the night and has strong vocal stims. Small cabin rooms with thin walls in close quarters is anxiety provoking for me.
    We enjoy the privacy and space that a large all-inclusive resort offers.  We choose rooms at the back of the resort during off-peak times for a quieter travel experience.
  •  Our past cruise experience showed that mealtimes were a group affair, and we had little control over where and with whom we sat. This will not work with our son’s current dining out skills.
  • We usually make use of in-room dining on our patio for at least one meal a day when we travel, and there is no way we would be comfortable showing our son how a patio door on a cruise ship operates.
  •  While our son has made significant gains regarding his ability to wait, long security lines with a lot of people can still be difficult.  We think the lines to get off and on the ship at various ports might still be troublesome, and we prefer to have the flexibility of hopping in a cab to diffuse and calm our little guy when and if we require it, or walking around the closest town at our leisure.

Q&A with Naomi Andjelic Bartlett of 'Autism Cafe' seaWhat is your favorite all-inclusive?

Our favorite inclusive is Beaches.
We love traveling to Jamaica and Turks and Caicos.
The people are friendly, the weather is beautiful when we travel, and the resorts themselves have a lot of amenities and features to keep our son, who always needs to be on the go, interested.  We like the fact that there are many restaurants to choose from, and the staff has always been helpful and accommodating.

What particular items do you pack for your kids?

I am not a light packer by any stretch.
The items I always pack include specialty food items to support our son’s dietary needs, such as GFCF bread and muffins, CF cheese for grilled cheeses, hot dogs, and peanut butter.
I also bring his favorite treats for reinforcement and desserts.  It goes without saying that we bring books, DVDs, favorite toys, etc. as well as our medical kit given our son is very particular about his first aid treatment.


Have you had any bad flight experiences and what have you learned from that?

I have had two particularly memorable negative flight experiences.
The first was on an international red-eye flight. Our son, who had fallen asleep, woke up about half an hour into the flight. He was screaming from being confused, disoriented and above all, tired.
This led to a coughing fit.
I was completely taken with trying to avoid an outright meltdown that I was in no way concerned with the niceties of him covering his mouth while coughing (which is difficult for him in the first place due to motor difficulties), much to the dismay of the passenger sitting behind us.
This passenger happened to be married to a doctor and was concerned about germs.
While trying to focus on my son, I was offered unsolicited medical advice about how my son had croup, and how regardless of his “status” (the word the passenger used when I explained that he had autism), should be covering his mouth to prevent the spread of germs on the airplane.

My son has a lengthy medical file and has been followed by an ENT for a large portion of his life due to a very narrow throat that naturally forms the “steeple” sound heard in croup.  Consequently, I am very well acquainted with when he is sick and when he does and does not require medical attention.  Whenever he coughs, it sounds croupy, with or without a virus or bacterial infection, and in any event, any germs spread on an airplane were by far more hazardous to our son than to the 30-something passenger complaining.

I didn’t bother going into this with the passenger, and I instead chose to ignore him and his wife.
My husband found this more challenging and the men resorted to insults and yelling.
That flight lasted 5 hours, but thankfully our son slept for about 3 of them in the end.
Up to the very last minute as we were walking off the plane, the wife was signaling to me and mouthing that my child needed medical attention.
This incident taught me to ignore and focus on my son without trying to read or care how everyone around me is reacting.

The second incident occurred when a flight attendant refused to allow my son to wear his noise-cancelling headphones during take off to block out the sound.
This was even after I explained that he had autism, which he was non-verbal and would require full assistance in an emergency because he would not be able to interpret any instructions given over the intercom in any event.  I further noted that I had neatly tied any
I further noted that I had neatly tied any loose wires from the headphones that might pose a tripping hazard.
This resulted in a full-blown meltdown in the middle of the aisle for the entire two-hour flight.
I no longer back down on this issue, as you might imagine.

What’s the best tip for eating at restaurants?

I’m not sure if I have a “best” tip.
We do so many things when we eat out to make it a pleasurable and successful experience for all.
From eating when it is not too busy (11:30 for lunch and 5:00 for dinner) to sitting next to a window or outside where possible and bringing popcorn as an appetizer for our son. We have had more success at full-service restaurants than the fast food places because they are quieter.

Have you ever re-arranged a hotel room to make it more comfortable for you and family?Q&A with Naomi Andjelic Bartlett of 'Autism Cafe' slide

Yes, we sometimes have to move a bed against a wall to make sleeping safer  – especially where the beds are high and falling off in the middle of the night poses a hazard.  Also, we have had chairs removed where our son was moving them and climbing them to open patio doors.

What is your most memorable day trip so far?

If we are talking about day trips while on vacation, without a doubt, this is the dolphin experience in Ocho Rios.  Our son was able to watch a dolphin swim up close, touch and even kiss one!
Given his love of the ocean, this was an especially moving experience.
So many other dolphin encounter programs have inflexible rules and would not accommodate our son.
For an authentic local day trip, we love going to Niagara Falls, ON, Canada.  Our son loves Marineland.


Where would you go next if money was no object?

Right now I think we have great vacations down south given our son’s abilities.
To try someplace more exotic, not only would the money have to be no object, but we would have to have a reliable Star Trek transporter to get us there!

Naomi is one of three moms who started Autism Cafe, in the hopes of providing information to other autism parents that they wished they had at their fingertips after diagnosis. They provide local and relevant information and resources to autism families.
They have recommended books, tricks of the trade, recommended websites, inspirational poems and sayings, autism facts, and GFCF recipes and resources.





Q&A with Candy Harrington author of ’22 accessible road trips’

Q&A with Candy Harrington author of '22 accessible road trips'Candy Harrington is an author, columnist, and editor focusing on accessible travel for people with mobility disabilities. Apart from editing  ‘Emerging Horizons’ and blogging her travel experiences at ‘Barrier-free travel’, she has written columns for publications like New Mobility, PN, Ability, Momentum, SCI Life, Kids on Wheels, Active Living, Abilities, Frommers.com and Special Living. She has just published her fourth travel book titled 22 Accessible Road Trips; Driving Vacations for Wheelers and Slow Walkers in which she shares valuable tips and information about the various wheelchair-accessible sites, lodging options, trails, attractions, and restaurants.


After having traveled for over 30 years, what areas have you seen the biggest positive changes towards inclusive trip?

I’d have to say the most significant changes have occurred in public transportation. Granted it’s still got ways to go, but today there are accessible taxis, buses and airport shuttles in many cities. That wasn’t always the case. In fact, I remember one wheelchair-using friend telling me that 25 years ago the only way he could get to and from the airport was in an ambulance. Today he has a choice of two accessible shuttle companies. Now that’s progress.

How many countries and states have you visited so far?

Well, I’ve visited every state and probably about 60 or so countries (although I don’t keep a running count). And for me, a visit is defined as actually staying there and exploring the country or state, not just driving through or connecting in an airport. I’ve also lived in Australia, the UK, and Lebanon.

How does the US measure up compared to other countries when it comes to catering to the special needs travelers?

I think we’re doing a good job, certainly better than some third world countries, but I see room for improvement. For example, over in London, all of the black cabs are required to be wheelchair-accessible. And New Zealand has excellent access – they even have pool lifts and zero-entry access to their hot springs. And I guess you could call cruise ships a destination; so with that in mind, I would say they’ve done an excellent job with access, seeing that there aren’t even any access regulations for them. In fact, everything they’ve done access-wise has been done on a voluntary basis. And I rather like that proactive attitude.

Q&A with Candy Harrington author of '22 accessible road trips' maps

photo credit Candy Harrington


What inspired you to write a book about road trips?

Oddly enough I didn’t set out to write a road trip book, but it was something that evolved because of my changing lifestyle. I used to have a killer travel schedule, in that I’d fly to Chicago one week, Cincinnati the next and then go to Memphis the following week, In between I’d fly home to the west coast, and somewhere along the way I realized that I was spending entirely too much time in airports. So I started doing fly-drive trips, where I would fly to one city, rent a vehicle and drive to the others. To my great surprise, I totally enjoyed it. In fact, I found I could take things slower, see more things and enjoy the journey. Eventually, we started making full-fledged road trips, and I just figured it was a good option for people with access issues. They’re also good for moms pushing strollers and folks who just get around a little slower. So the idea of a road trip book was born.

Why would you recommend road trips to families of children with autism?

Well, I think with car travel, you have more control of your environment. That’s not so true when you’re on an airplane.  For example, if you child has a meltdown mid-air there’s no place to go. In a car, you can stop, maybe at a nice quiet park, to help calm him down.  Plus he won’t be as fatigued on a road trip, as you’ll be on your schedule and you’ll be able to stop and take a break whenever you need it. And you won’t have to stand in those long TSA lines, and prepare your child for the security screenings. That’s always a crap shoot because you never know what will happen. And if your child is a fussy eater, you can pack along some of his favorite foods in an ice chest. I even know one mom who keeps some heat and heat macaroni and cheese bowls in her purse, as it’s the one food she knows her son will eat. Plus many roadside motels have microwaves, so it’s easy to prepare.

You say in your book, “Always prepare for the what-ifs.” What has been your worst experience on a road trip so far and what did you learn from it?

Well, one morning we woke up in a rural Indiana Inn and found out that we didn’t have any water. The emergency number went to voice mail, and we had to hit the road early that day, so we had to skip our showers.  We were able to make coffee with the bottled water we had in the trunk, though. To this day, we never travel without bottled water!

Q&A with Candy Harrington author of '22 accessible road trips' trailer

Photo credit Candy Harrington

Over the years, I’ve heard many stories about lodging properties falsely representing their amenities for special needs travelers. How would you recommend preventing that situation from arising, and if it does, how would you deal with that issue?

Well, first and foremost I’d advise people to avoid arriving late. It’s just Murphy’s Law – if you’re tired, have a cranky child, feel like crap and come late, that’s the time they are going to mess up your reservation. Plus if you come late, chances are all of the accessible rooms will be taken, and you won’t have the option of moving to a place that better suits your needs. Mistakes do happen, so if you arrive and find they don’t have the accessible room you need, you need to be able to explain calmly to the front desk clerk what you need, and then request that they accommodate you — either at their property or one nearby. And you just can’t do that when you’re tired. So split that 10 hour drive up over two days and arrive early.  That way you’ll have plenty of opportunities to correct any errors in your reservation.

Would you recommend staying in a hotel chain or at small, private properties when traveling with special needs?

The smaller properties ! when you stay in small B&B or inns you’ll usually end up speaking to the owner or a family member, or someone who has a vested interest in making sure that all the guests are happy. At the larger properties, you’ll just be dealing with an employee who is watching the clock.

Many of your suggested road trips describe national parks: which park is your favorite and why?

I’m a real national park person, so I enjoyed them all, but if I had to pick a favorite, it would be Big Bend National Park in Texas. It’s named for the big bend in the Rio Grande, and there’s some awesome scenery there. Plus it’s pretty remote, so you don’t get the crowds like you do in some of the more popular national parks. Also, it has accessible lodging and some awesomely accessible trails.

Q&A with Candy Harrington author of '22 accessible road trips' santa fe

Photo credit Candy Harrington

What was the most unique food dish you’ve had while on a road trip?

Well, I’ve had kimchee (love it), haggis (so-so), rabbit (too rich) and poi (hate it); but to be honest, I enjoy tasting the different types of barbecue across the US. Different regions have distinctly different styles. In fact, I thought I’d tasted it all until a South Carolinian friend informed me that I haven’t lived until I’ve had their mustard-based one. So that’s on my must-do list for our fall road trip.

You’ve written about visiting many small towns in the US in your book; which one would you describe as the embodiment of “small town  USA”?

I just love Rabbit Hash, Kentucky.  How can you not love a town with a name like that? It just has a general store, a few out buildings, and some old houses, but it’s very scenic, especially when the colors change in the fall. And how many times can you play fetch with the mayor on Main Street?  Yep, they elect a dog as mayor there, and from what I understand it, the election is pretty competitive

For children who are temperature-sensitive, what road trip would you recommend taking during the summer months?

I’d probably stick with Mother Nature’s Glory in the Pacific Northwest (Northern California and Oregon) or Way out West (Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana, as those routes travel through some higher elevations and are a little cooler.

If you have heat sensitivity issues, though, consider making or buying a cooling bandana or try Cool Offs towelettes. (the quickchill.com).  I tried the latter on a recent trip to Belize, and it worked like a charm!

Q&A with Candy Harrington author of '22 accessible road trips' rodeo

Photo credit Candy Harrington

In your writings, you recommend several factory tours. Which one would you say was the most educational and fun for children to try?

I’d recommend the Hyundai Plant in Montgomery, Alabama. Kids have to be in first grade to take the tour, but it’s a fun and educational experience. The tour is conducted in a wheelchair-accessible tram, so there’s no problem with your child getting tired or inadvertently wandering away. The kids on our trip seemed to love it, and they asked brilliant questions.

Out of the twenty-two road trips described in your book, which one would you recommend to a family just willing to take the plunge and try traveling for the first time?

I’d say pick a route that is close to home and stick with a short 3-4 day trip on your first time out.  That way you can find a routine that works for you, and just get the hang of traveling by car. And if you forget something that you can’t replace on the road, or just have an absolute disaster, you can always head home. It’s kind of like traveling with a safety net. Once you get the hang of things and feel more confident, you can venture farther from home.

How would you encourage a family with a special needs child to start traveling?

I tell folks to explore a nearby town for a day. Get an early start, visit some attractions, have lunch, and then head home for dinner. With any luck, your child will be tired out and nap along the way. It will give you a little taste for travel and doing the tourist thing, but yet you’ll still have that safety net. After a few of those outings, build it up to an overnight stay, then just keep tacking on days.  Before you know it, you’re traveling!

Q&A with Candy Harrington author of '22 accessible road trips' morgan

Photo credit Candy Harrington

I’ve noticed while reading your book that you did not mention any old-fashioned or modern amusement parks; is that because some still do not offer adequate accessibility to special-needs travelers?

Quite the contrary. I think most theme parks have done a good job; however I do have a pet peeve about travel professionals and even members of the media who perpetuate the archaic notion that the only place you can vacation if you have a disability is at a theme park. I’m tired of seeing the “In a Wheelchair? Then Go to Disneyland” articles. That’s just so condescending!  I mean, there’s nothing wrong with Disneyland if you happen to like theme parks; but just because you are in a wheelchair doesn’t mean you are automatically going to fall in love with them. I like to encourage people to think outside of the box, and enjoy the type of vacation that they want, not one that society thinks they should have.

That said, I do make exceptions now and again. One of those – Morgan’s Wonderland — is included in the book. Located in San Antonio this 25-acre park is filled with low-keyed rides such as the Wonderland Express Train, the Carousel and the Jeep Adventure Ride — all of which are 100% accessible, even for power wheelchair users. They also limit attendance, so children who have issues with waiting in line will have a nicer experience. It’s not highly publicized, and I thought it was worth a mention. Kids with disabilities are also admitted free, so that’s a big help on the budget.


Q&A with Candy Harrington author of '22 accessible road trips' cover
22 Accessible Road Trips Driving Vacations for Wheelers and Slow Walkers
by Candy Harrington

New Published 05/2012
336 pp Paperback
ISBN13 9781936303267
Price: $21.95


Q&A with Monika Knight of ‘Tomorrow can wait’

Monika and Scott Knight live in Berlin, Germany and are raising their son John who has autism.They are currently in the process of launching a blog titled ‘Tomorrow can wait’ and writing a book about their travels with John throughout Europe.

How old is your son John and what is his current diagnosis?

We’re Scott and Monika Knight. Our son John is eleven years old and severely autistic, mostly non-verbal. He attends a school specialized in autism, which works with TEACCH, PECS, a talker and some sign language to help communication.

How did you start traveling with your son and when did it become ‘a way of life’ for you?

We’ve always traveled, because of to our transatlantic relationship (Scott is originally from the States.) John flew for the first time from Chicago to Germany when he was three months old.
Traveling as a broader concept entered our minds as a way for John to open up his routines after we talked to a woman with an autistic adult son who didn’t want to leave the house.Both my husband and I felt we wanted to expose John to the world, not condemn him to a lifetime of staying home.

How do you choose your destinations and how do you prepare John for his next adventure? 

We always talk about places we’d like to see, and we haven’t been to yet. Then we look on the internet. Once we know where we’ll go, we watch videos of our destination with John and tell him that it’s our next vacation.

Q&A with Monika Knight of 'Tomorrow can wait' TRAIN

Photo credit: Monika Knight

What items do you always bring along?

Since John is not entirely toilet-trained yet, we mostly pack diapers, lots of diapers. We usually first pack the car with all the diapers and then we see what else we can still squeeze in.

How does John cope with unexpected changes in travel plans and what do you bring along to occupy him on long trips?

John loves water, so he likes traveling by boats and ferries, which is perfect for us in Europe. On long car drives, we take music, sugarless gum, and picture books to keep him entertained. In the past, we used to fly a lot; but we’ve found air travel increasingly difficult as John got older. Now we mostly travel by car, which has somewhat limited our reach, but that’s okay.

What type of lodging do you prefer and why?

We always try to rent houses. In Europe, it’s even cheaper than staying in hotels in many cases. They can be modest homes; it’s just nice to have more space and a kitchen to cook in, so we don’t have to experience the stress of eating in a restaurant.
But more importantly, with a house, John has more freedom to be as loud as he wants. He becomes more relaxed and then so do we.


Q&A with Monika Knight of 'Tomorrow can wait' COUNTRYSIDE

Photo credit: Monika Knight


What are your son’s favorite things to do at a new destination?

Since John loves to ride in the car, we first take scenic drives to get to know a new area and John scopes out stores that sell ice cream.
We don’t  normally have a set schedule when we travel; we mostly play it by ear and see how John is managing, and if he seems up to it, we walk around. If he wants to relax, we do just that. One of the key managing his behavior is for us to be flexible and stress him out.


What has been his favorite place so far and why?

It’s difficult to name a favorite place because there are so many we’ve enjoyed. Ireland, France, and Sweden are all up there.
Since John doesn’t like heat, we wouldn’t travel to Southern Spain in the summer again. We had a hard time there, on your last visit so next time we would l go in the spring or fall.
After a trip, we print out photos, laminate them and make a photo book for John. He likes to look at them quite often, and with the lamination, they don’t ruin as quickly.

Where will your travels take you next? 

We’re hoping to go to Scotland, Southern England, and Tuscany.

Q&A with Monika Knight of 'Tomorrow can wait' NORMANDY

Photo credit: Monika Knight















Q&A with Courtney Barnum-autism parent and advocate

Courtney Barnum, aka Liam’s mom, strives to raise autism awareness through her personal stories on her blog titled “My as-some son’ as well as on her Facebook page “A Legion for Liam‘.When she is not busy homeschooling her son, Liam, who has autism, she loves planning budget trips to take with her family.She also enjoys art, music, antique car shows and investigating paranormal activities.


When was he diagnosed, and how is he affected by his autism?

Liam is my miracle child. He is the baby I was told I may never have, and yet here he is.
I’ll never forget when they laid him on my chest after birth, I cried and cried, and thanked God for letting me carry this beautiful, healthy baby to term.
Liam just turned six and was not officially diagnosed until he was five. His first diagnosis was Asperger’s, ODD, OCD, ADHD, and SPD. He then had a nervous breakdown of sorts, and we took him to another doctor for a second opinion, and his diagnosis was changed to Autism, ADHD, and SPD.

From the beginning, Liam was always different.
He hardly slept. He was up every hour on the hour for almost all of the first year of his life. He hit his milestones on time, but at about 15 months he started to ‘back pedal’. He wouldn’t let anyone touch him. He wanted affection on his terms only, and only by his father and me. He started having night terrors on a nightly basis. He had a speech problem, but we assumed it was because he had been ‘tongue-tied.’ He became a super picky eater.

Getting a doctor to listen to our concerns was hard. We were told he was too young to understand, he was fine, he was normal. At four, I knew better, and I started to switch doctors until I found one who would listen.

Right now Liam is most affected by the ruminations that come from his autism. He is a ‘dweller’: it could be something that happened a year ago, and out of the blue Liam will be upset by it.
His sensory problems are also of great concern. He is bothered by loud noises, to the point where going into town means a meltdown. He also does not like large crowds; they make him very nervous and on edge.

What are your reasons for choosing a destination?

When we select a place, the first factor is how much it’s going to cost. We are on a very fixed income, so the price is always a factor. We look for free or low-cost things to do with Liam.
The next factor is distance. Liam does not like to be far from home. He gets very edgy on overnight stays, so if we do it, we stay only one night away.

Who is the decisive force in choosing a destination?

I usually make the decision. I always run it by my hubby, but ultimately, it is me who makes the decision. He’s pretty easygoing, and says, “If it’s free, it’s for me!”

How do you cater to Liam’s needs when you plan an outing or trip?

Liam is always the priority. When planning an outing, the first thing I do is check his medications. He takes an herbal medicine called Calms Forte, and it works perfect for his anxiety.I always make sure I have plenty of that, and we always give him one before we take him someplace new or someplace with a lot of people.

Q&A with Courtney Barnum-autism parent and advocate baby pics

What do you regularly pack?

The next thing I check is his sensory backpack. I make sure his earmuffs for noise and all his fidget toys are in there. I then pack him food and drinks. He is a super picky little man, so I always take his meals with us.

What do you always forget to pack?

I always forget to pack something either myself or my hubby needs. I am always so focused on what Liam needs, that I sometimes forget some things we may need. It’s usually my inhaler. Hubby tells me I need to wear it as a necklace.

Are you an over-packer or under-packer and why?

I am an over-packer. My family teases me because a one-night stay for Liam is, at least, four bags of items. I have always been over-prepared when it comes to him.

What is your lodging of choice?

We mostly choose day trips because as I said, Liam is very nervous when it comes to staying away from his home. If we make an overnight trip, we camp. It’s more affordable, more fun, and Liam loves it!

What has been your worst lodging experience?

The worst thing about camping is the weather! Last year we were all set to go camping (a great family place only six miles from home) and it started to rain harshly. It was awful! Our site was already paid for and reserved, so we went despite the storm. We were going with friends, and in the end, we all splurged on a cabin. It was a lot of fun and disaster turned into great memories.

What amenity you can’t do without in a hotel or other lodging?

Bathrooms are a big deal to Liam. They must be clean! He is very picky about bathrooms. So I would have to say, to him, the bathroom is a big factor in staying somewhere.

Q&A with Courtney Barnum-autism parent and advocate family

What is your transportation of choice and why?

Our family car, though not the most beautiful, is how we travel. Liam would never tolerate a bus, let alone a plane even if we could afford to fly.

Where do you like to dine when you travel – fast food or sit-down restaurants?

Liam’s favorite fast food diner is Burger King. For two reasons: the Nuggets and the indoor play place! He is a very picky eater, and chicken nuggets are a staple in his diet.

We do not go out to eat often, as Liam does not sit well. We usually get food to go because Liam in a restaurant is not easy. First of all, he is all over the place. He has to check everything out! Sometimes that means checking out what others are eating. He has a hard time sitting still.

Even at home, we’re lucky to get him to sit at the table with us for more than five minutes at a time. Also, smells! He is very sensitive when it comes to smells, so that is also hard to get away from at a restaurant.

Have you encountered nasty comments from other diners?

We have never heard a rude comment at a restaurant (probably because I can count on one hand how many times we have taken Liam.) We have encountered rude comments and stares during grocery shopping though. I only say, “He is autistic” and that changes everything. They either look away, or tell me how cute he is, and that is that!

What attractions/activities do you always incorporate in an outing?

When we do go on an outing, I like to make sure it’s fun and even educational if I can. Liam is currently homeschooled, so I try to make everything a lesson. He enjoys going to state parks because there are always plaques with info about the area for me to read to him.

Any activities that are currently on your bucket list?

I want to take him to a zoo. The closest one to us is not wheelchair friendly, so, my hubby wouldn’t be able to go. Liam loves animals of any kind, and I think the zoo would be awesome for him. I do worry about the smells, though. I think taking him in the spring, before it got too hot and smelly, may be the best because he has a very sensitive nose and a very quick gag reflex.

He may be taking part in a study at CAR in Philly, and if he does, we think the Philly Zoo will be a stop for us!

Does Liam collect souvenirs from outings?

Liam is a collector! He loves to collect rocks from every place we go, even if it is to the creek right next to our house! We have many rocks at home! Hubby and I either get him a snow globe or a magnet from every place we take him. That way he always has that little memory.
Q&A with Courtney Barnum-autism parent and advocate travel


Has he experienced meltdowns during an outing, and if so, what do you do?

Meltdowns are the worst, especially in public. I have become pretty good at being able to tell when he is getting ready to explode. If I catch it in time, hubby or I remove him from the situation for a little sensory break.

If he melts down before we can get him away, the first thing I do is try to embrace him, and get him to look me in the eye, and try to talk him out of it. That rarely works, so the next step is getting him out of the situation before he becomes enraged.

Liam is not bad in public. Most likely if we have a problem, it is crying or shouting. He tends to get so absorbed in what it is we are doing, that nothing is going on around him matters.

How do you keep the memories alive for him?

love to scrapbook. The only problem is it is hard to do with Liam. He loves to help me, and he loves to make crafts, so keeping him out of my supplies is not easy. Most would say, “Do it when he’s sleeping.” That’s fine for mothers of neuro-typical kids, but any special needs mom will tell you, “You sleep when they sleep!” It’s a lesson I learned very early on!

Recently I have started him a new scrapbook of sorts. A friend of mine makes beautiful photo albums. I was lucky enough to win one from the raffle at the Autism Hearts benefits walk. So I have started using that. I make it as a scrapbook with pictures and whatever keepsakes we may have from that outing. Also, I make notes in there so when I am old and forgetful Liam has the memory written down for him. I add little things to make it nice, but it’s nothing like the ones I made when he was a baby. For me now, simpler is easier!

We always take a ton of pictures! We can’t afford to print them all, so instead we catalog them by month and burn them onto a disk so he will always have them. Often I will use my photo program and put the pictures in a beautiful layout, so they are scrapbooked, but in a less time-consuming way. Got to love the digital age!

You mentioned you are a paranormal investigator; has Liam gone on any trips and how do you explain it to him?

In my spare time, (which is few and far between these days due to hubby’s disability and caring for Liam) I am a case manager and paranormal investigator for a local team called Endless Mountains Paranormal. I love it. It has always been a macabre passion of mine.

We are a very family oriented team, and try to do outings with all of our kiddos. Last summer we were asked to host a paranormal night at the Binghamton Mets, NYSEG Stadium. That was so much fun! Liam got to see his first baseball game with Daddy! We also did a kids night on our own. We got together at our local park in the evening. The kids had snacks and played a few ghost-themed games. Then when it became dark, we set them loose with some of our equipment, and they did their brief investigation. They loved it.

Liam is very into the paranormal. His favorite paranormal show is Destination Truth. He loves that it covers ghosts and monsters. Occasionally he will wear a scarf and pretend he is Josh Gates and haunts our house.


*All pictures for this post have been submitted by Courtney Barnum.

Q&A with Yumi Yasuyama of ‘Adventures in Autism’


Yumi Yasuyama lives in Aichi-Ken, Kariya City, Japan and is a mother to two sons, one of which (Aki) has autism and ADHD.She and her husband Junichi love to travel with their kids and share their family adventures on their Facebook page called-Adventures in Autism. In this interview, Yumi sheds light on what motivates them to travel as well as describing the different challenges associated with planning their trips.

Q&A with Yumi Yasuyama of 'Adventures in Autism' CITY

How do you choose a destination?

Most of the time we chose our travel destination by ‘pirate’ aka our kids’ request.My autistic son loves to look at travel photos from local tours companies like Rakuten Travels, on the internet, and travel magazines.

When he stumbles upon a word he can’t yet read in Japanese, he asks his brother or us to read and tell him where the picture was taken.When we first started traveling we used to take them to places they were not interested in; that usually ended up with meltdowns and returning home faster than planned, so now we try and accommodate them as best we can.

The best part of letting them pick the trips is when something goes wrong they don’t complain since they know it was their choice.This way works better for us-we are all calmer and enjoy our trip more.

What do you look for regarding education and fun when planning a trip?
Our sons love experience-based tours, like learning clay pottery, wood crafts, glass art, and making lanterns.

They enjoy love attending different festivals and eating different gourmet foods from different areas.They also like exploring different architectures so visiting different World Heritage sites is high on our priority list.They love trying out different sports, from marine to mountain activities.But sometimes they just simply enjoy exploring nature; so we take our cues from them.

Q&A with Yumi Yasuyama of 'Adventures in Autism' SWANS

How long on average is a vacation?

Everything depends on their school and therapy schedules, and the location where we are headed to. Sometimes it’s just a day trip or a weekend, other times it can be three nights or even a month. I think the longest we did so far is one month.

What particular items do you pack for them and do you have any packing tips to share?

We have the family rules that they have to pack their things.
We start by making a memo list—what they need—, and they can check everything that is in the bag already.

We’ve  made it clear to both of them: there is no helping or carrying someone else’s bag.They need to be responsible for their belongings.If they forget their stuff it’s their fault; if they lose it during our trip, it’s also their fault—no blaming us! And somehow since the boys are close in age(14 months apart.)  I was lucky enough and did not have a hard time training them.

In the past, my autistic son ‘shadowed’ his brother but nowadays it’s the other way around; he wants to lead our tours. He will show me some photo from his smartphone where he wants to stop over.

One item we always bring is Aki’s [my autistic son’s] doll.He calls his doll Kiki. He can’t sleep without his doll. For those Just in case moments, we pack art bags with markers and sketchbooks.The markers are easily erasable because Aki sometimes ends up writing on the bed sheets and furniture of the hotel or the train or plane tables.

Q&A with Yumi Yasuyama of 'Adventures in Autism' OCEAN


What particular accommodations if any do you request on flights?

With flights, I usually tell the airlines ahead of time that I am traveling with a person with disabilities- autism.I show them his disability pocket note ID (we get one in Japan) so we can get discounts for him and me as his caregiver.
I  prefer to ask for help in advance, in case I need that. I do explain to them that autistic children have little patience for waiting, during check-in, passing the custom/ immigration, or boarding process.I ask ahead of time for all the papers I might need during the trip, so, at the airport, it’s always smooth.
The crew usually give my autistic pirate a sticker that identifies him as eligible for their guest support assistance.They give us special treatment so we won’t have to wait too long.
Since we usually travel in economy class, we book ahead of time and avoid flying during the busy seasons.We always like to request the window seats. The flight crew is always supportive, so there is nothing wrong with asking for help. My advice for families is: make sure you ask and get all the help that you can get to make your flight go smoothly.

Q&A with Yumi Yasuyama of 'Adventures in Autism' SKYDIVE

What do you do if your son becomes hyper during the flight or hotels?.

During the flight I let them draw, play puzzle, watch movies or play games.
If they get hyper, I take them to the washroom and talk to them in a whispering voice to calm them down.
In hotels, I put them in water therapy (pools, spa, massage or just hot water tub or bubble bath).

Do you choose one room or adjoining rooms?

My two pirates are thirteen and fourteen years old, so I get the connecting rooms.


Q&A with Yumi Yasuyama of 'Adventures in Autism' WATERFALL

What amenities do you look for when choosing a hotel for your family?

First and foremost we look for affordable pricing, but we also look for clean, convenient, and with WiFi. Before I book a hotel, I do call them first and explain that I am traveling with a child with autism.

If on the phone they already sound unresponsive to me, I will find another hotel that is willing to give us some a  more pleasant service. So far we have not encountered bad experiences from any hotel, domestic or international.

Has there been a hotel experience (a positive one) you would like to mention?

The best stay was at Grand Pacific Le Daiba in Tokyo, as they gave us an affordable price.The minute we arrived at the parking lot, someone was already waiting to help us not just with our bags but also with my autistic pirate.They tried to be friendly with both of my kids.

Also, they put us up in a breathtaking room with a view and every time the hotel staff saw us they greeted us and kept offering help.They talked more to my pirates than I did!They asked them what their plans were and gave them tips on how to manage the events on their schedule.


Q&A with Yumi Yasuyama of 'Adventures in Autism' TRAIN


Have you taken cruises, and if so, did you enjoy it?

We’ve been on multiple cruises: from dinner show tours to Kyushu Island to international destinations like California, Mexico, and Hong Kong.And yes, we all love cruising.We enjoy the buffet food, the dance parties at night and all the water activities offered.

Do you plan your outing in advance or not?

It depends on the location. If we travel internationally, we’ll plan everything well ahead of time.When we travel domestically: sometimes we just go, and sometimes we plan ahead like if there is a festival going on and we know that the hotels would be crowded.


Q&A with Yumi Yasuyama of 'Adventures in Autism' SHELLS

What type of adventures do you like?

We love anything to do with nature and sports. My pirates are always interested in trying everything.
So far we’ve tried: scuba diving, mountain hiking, paragliding, parasailing, waterfalls, and kayaking.

What would you like to try next?

This summer we are hoping that the pirates will be able to try acrobatic skydiving.


Q&A with Yumi Yasuyama of 'Adventures in Autism' SNOW

Where have you been so far?

Beside Japan where we live, we’ve been to Hong Kong, the Philippines, Taiwan, the United States, Mexico, Canada, and Denmark.

Where would you like to go if you had unlimited money and funds?.

We want to visit all the places included in the World Heritage Map!
Also, we would like to climb the tallest mountain in the world. And my little pirates also want to explore space in a rocket ship.

Q&A with Yumi Yasuyama of 'Adventures in Autism' BALLOONS

* All photos credit: Yasuyama family


Q&A with John Elder Robison Autism Author

Q&A with John Elder Robison Autism Author PORTRAITJohn Elder Robison is the author of the NY Times bestseller, Look Me in the Eye -My life with Asperger’s and Be Different, Adventures of a free-range Aspergian.
John’s books have been translated into 18 languages and sold in more than 60 countries. John’s next book, The Best Kid, is scheduled to be published in the Fall of 2013. He is a popular public speaker, an active advocate for people with neurological differences (including autism) and serves on multiple advisory boards for autism research.
In addition to raising autism awareness and managing his luxury-car restoration business, he enjoys hiking, photography, music, and is a world-class champion eater.
Q&A with John Elder Robison author of 'Look me in the eye' TORONTO

Descending into Toronto photo credit J.E. Robison

How has travel contributed to your life?.

I have gotten to see people and places I’d never have known had I stayed home.  Plus, I have encountered curiosities.
There was the Giant Sumatran Rat that I sold to the circus. And I got a genuine Akubra hat in Australia.
Best of all, I got a real Imperial War Pug from China.

When and where did you introduce your own child to travel?.

I was not in a traveling phase when my son was born.
At that time, I was focused exclusively on building up my business to support us.  My first wife, Little Bear, introduced Cubby to travel by taking him to Disney World and then to Mexico when she went there to study for her doctorate in Anthropology.


Q&A with John Elder Robison author of 'Look me in the eye' HIGHTIDE

Watching the tugs in Galveston Photo credit J.E.Robison

What’s the one thing you would never leave home without?

My phone, camera and I-pad (three things.) I can get clothes on location.

Describe a unique method of transportation you’ve used during your travels so far

When I was in the rock and roll business, I got to fly in the front seat of a Lockheed L1011 that we had chartered as we flew to New York to load gear and crew.

The pilot was proud of his plane and eager to demonstrate its abilities, especially when there were no passengers on board.

What is your preferred seat on a plane and why?

I always get aisle seats within five rows of the exit.
Aisle seats because I am tall, and less than five rows from the exit because studies show those seats to be the ones from which the majority of survivors emerge if there is a mishap.

Q&A with John Elder Robison author of 'Look me in the eye' COLLAGE

One food you refuse to eat and why?

Guts, brains, and organs.
I would hope their undesirability as human food would be universal and self-evident, but it’s not.

If I ever go back to….this time I will….

If I ever go back to Montserrat, I will check more carefully for contraband and be more vigilant around the police.
Also, I will keep my motor vehicles out of the ocean.

 Describe the oddest souvenir you’ve brought home

A dried toad from Australia.
Two crazed Russians had made the toad into a purse, and I bought it from them in a backcountry gypsy market.  Bringing it home, I gave it to Cubby’s mom because she is a freak herself and appreciates strange stuff like that.

Q&A with John Elder Robison author of 'Look me in the eye' ROAD

Looking where the road used to be photo credit J.E.Robison

What’s your ‘must have’ feature when choosing a hotel to stay in?

Beds to sleep in.
It’s very disturbing to walk into a room, dog-tired from a long day of travel, only to find a cheap blanket on the hard concrete.

Given the opportunity to travel through time where would you go and who would you like to meet?

I would go back a couple of hundred years, and look for Colonel Albert Ferguson whose Ferguson Hair Counter revolutionized the packing and sorting of wool, having the same effect on sheep ranching that Eli Whitney’s cotton gin had had for planters a few decades earlier.


Q&A with John Elder Robison author of 'Look me in the eye' SUN

Walking up a mountain in Vermont Photo credit J.E.Robison



Happy Mother’s Day

Last week, my blog Autistic Globetrotting celebrated its two-year anniversary. Many things have changed during this past year: it expanded, joined Google+ and Twitter, made new friends, and even developed a brand-new look.Happy Mother's Day profile pic
Even through all this change, one thing has remained constant: the idea to inspire autistic families to go out and explore the world. After sharing my family’s stories, pictures, and tips with all of you these past years, I thought it was wonderful for you all to share your stories in celebration of not only my blog’s anniversary but of Mother’s Day as well. Whether a short day outing to the zoo, ocean, or a transatlantic journey, I wanted to read how other mothers go about their routines. My guidelines were simple: describe your family, your educational philosophy towards your children, what you carry along on outings, and your enjoyment of the process.The responses were amazing; over forty mothers took time from their busy, hectic schedules to write down their posts and send in their answers fast so we could meet the Mother’s Day set deadline.
Though the diagnoses and needs of their children varied substantially, all the moms’ stories were incredibly similar. Of course, the tips mostly revolved around what electronic devices to bring along with special diet snacks and sensory toys.
Many admitted to preferring car trips over flying that involve the much-dreaded TSA.Yet, there so many commonalities between parents that had never even met. Every post I read was filled with tremendous love, patience, wisdom, and incredible optimism that I for one found inspiring. And the best part was they unanimously hoped to expand their travel horizons in the future which was precisely what I encouraged my readers to do!
I would like to extend a big thank you to all of you who have read this post, and an even greater thank you to the mothers who participated. This was by far the best Mother’s Day gift I could ever have received.Happy Mother’s Day,
MargalitGuest posts by:

Simone Balestrin

Esther Fillon Baker

Pam Blackburn

Jennifer Brook

Alysia Butler

Irma Canfield

Heather Ann Dymock

Mara Fritts

Elizabeth Gorski

Kelly Green

Jennifer Faust Hartsuff

Jenny Herman

Debra Hosseini

Gretchen Mansfield

Cathy Beukuma McNulty

Araceli Verduzco Meza

Katrina Moody

Jennifer Byde Myers

Mieko Hester -Perez

Jennifer Perry

Laurie Robinson

Shannon Des Roches Rosa

Jackie Martin-Sebell

Zoe Sandell

Lorrie Servati

Kim Stagliano

Jeannette V. Suarez

Jane Tipton

Kristy Warkentin

Tania Weissberg

Jenny Wendling

Annette White

Jean Winegardner

Q&A with Simone Balestrin Autism Mom

“I love that we can now go to cafes together and order a meal. Places with booth seats are the best because I can sit on the outside and block off most of the other customers and stop him running around.”

Q&A with Simone Balestrin Autism Mom

submitted by Simone Balestrin

Hi everyone,
My name is Simone, I live in Australia, and I have a seven-year-old son, Josh, who has severe autism and an eleven-year-old neurotypical daughter.

When I plan any outings with my kids, I have several things I always make sure are done before going. I pack a small bag with Josh’s food and juice and make sure my i-Phone is fully charged, in case I need to call anyone quickly.
If we are going somewhere new, I might source some visuals beforehand of the internet to prepare him so he can see what to expect which lessens his anxiety.
I try my best to make it as stress-free as possible though communication with him is complex and requires a lot of skill and patience, both of which I have acquired over the years.I use a combination of spoken words and pictures to get my ideas through which mostly works though not all the time.

I love the fact that we can now go to cafes together and order a meal, something that I have waited for several years to be able to do.  I tend to pick food venues with booth seats because then I can sit relaxed on the outside and block off most of the other customers and stop my son from running around or darting out into the street. He seems to be happy to eat his packed foods and play on my I-Phone, for now, and I hope it stays this way for a while.

I remember years ago when this was so hard, and he wouldn’t sit at all.
I promised myself I would change that so I started by just ordering a coffee and trying to get him to stay for a short visit. Baby steps! I can’t even remember the number of times when I didn’t get to finish it; there were quite a few. And it wasn’t easy to find places that were accepting of his behaviors and didn’t judge us. But I didn’t give up and kept trying every week. I’m so proud of how far he has come.

I guess I’ll be trying to plan a short day trip next!


Q&A with Annette White of Camp Autism

“…Part of our planning for this coming vacation involves Bailey. Being so technically- minded he loves to look on Google maps and  print off his list of directions which has saved us more than once from getting lost…”

Q&A with Annette White of Camp Autism

My name is Annette and I have two kids – Bailey( 11) with high functioning autism and Holly (6)  in Prep school.
We are about to head off for a  four weeks vacation from Victoria to Queensland and then back down to Tasmania!
Four weeks is a long time to be away from school but we have spoken to both our kids’ teachers and asked what themes they are studying this term so the kids will be able to keep up and not miss anything.
Also, we will adapt our day trips and help them learn – in a different way about the same things. My husband , a teacher and I  always encourage them to learn about things around them.

Bailey is currently learning about the damaging factors that impact the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, so we have suggested that he interview different people who work in the area about this issue.
Bailey has also started his own blog and we have suggested that each day he  write a bit about his day ( we are taking his netbook with us!) and send the link to the teacher. He plans to make videos and take lots of photos so he can prepare a slide show when he returns home.  Holly is still young but we encourage her to draw what she sees.Her teacher has also made some maths sheets that we can work on a regular day.

Part of our planning for this coming vacation involves Bailey. Being so technically minded, he loves to look on Google maps and print off his list of directions which has saved us more than once from getting lost!

We pack the usual things including the DVD player or the DS, which  are a good distraction on long driving trips.We try to pack either a plug-in night light and a small clock that glows in the dark – because he hates the dark and likes to know what time to get up. Turns out it is much easier than leaving the bathroom lights on.
As far as trip planning is concerned;we have never had to change any of our plans because of meltdowns or other challenges. We are mindful that if the kids are tired, their behaviour is likely to plummet quickly so ensure we don’t get “overtired” to avoid meltdowns. 
Both our kids love eating out, and Bailey particularly likes ordering and asking lots of questions about the food. We always get comments on how polite he is and of course, he can add up the bill!!!
Our biggest hassle is trying to find disabled toilets because of the electric hand dryers that Bailey hates (the noise is excruciating for him.)

For lodging, we always opt to book a cabin (in a park) near a playground so the kids can wander off, have a little bit of freedom, and we can still keep an eye on them.

We especially look forward to our  Camp Autism weekends where we get to relax and network with other parents with kids on the spectrum.
We feel truly blessed to have met so many friends, both children and parents,that all have something in common we create fond memories with!

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