As a parent to special-needs kids, I’ve found cruising to be one of the more enjoyable ways to enjoy a vacation.However, sharing a relatively small cabin can prove stressful for some kids on the spectrum, in particular for the younger ones.
Here are some tips to help you, the parent, create a more ‘autism-friendly’ environment so that your family can relax and enjoy their cruising experience.
Heating and Air Conditioning
Check the location of the cabin’s air vent and make sure your kid’s bed is not directly under it, especially if he or she suffers from sensory issues.
Try to do that with the other members of your family chose their own beds and started bickering over the different locations.
Furthermore, test the cabin’s air conditioning and heating systems to make sure they work adequately and alert your room steward if you discover any problems.
Contact your room attendant if you require a mattress padding for comfort or a mattress shield for bed wetting.
You should prepare and print a list of items your family needs daily such as the number of towels, pillows and sheets ahead of time and hand it to him/her when you see them.
Keep an extra copy for yourself in case the initial list goes missing and your attendant needs another.
Pay per view
Check your TV programming when you first enter the cabin since some cruise lines offer a pay per view option where all you need to do is punch in the room number.
Although this may seem like a fun feature to have, you need to be aware it may enable your kid to ratchet up an impressive bill by pressing a few buttons, not to mention the early education she or he might get on the porn channels.
Contact guest relations and ask how to block the feature before your kid discovers the ‘fun’ in ordering the same movie repeatedly (fifty-one times to be exact!) as mine did.
Involve all your family members ( including your child with autism) in the process of unpacking.
Our packing system consists of putting everyone’s clothing in 2.5-gallon Ziploc bags and labeling each person’s bag with a colored piece of duct tape.
In our family of four; my son’s bags are always tagged yellow; his brother’s blue, my husband’s bags green and mine are orange.
When we unpack at a hotel or cruise cabin, all I have to do is give every family member a designated area (shelf or drawer) to put all their labeled Ziploc bags with their clothes in.
This system is useful to keep track of everything, lessening the chance of something left behind in the cabin when we leave.
This method has also helped our son become more independent since he can identify his color coded clothes bags and get dressed on his own, every morning!
Ask the steward to empty the cabin cooler so you can store your drinks and food items.
Cruise companies usually stock these coolers with sodas and alcoholic beverages you will be charged extra for if you consume anything!
The cooler can be a life savior for that middle of the night scenarios when your kid wants to eat or drink something, and you need fast access to individual items instead of calling room service or getting up and heading out to an open food venue.
Bring two nightlights or flashlights combo to help you navigate the dark cabins at night when everyone’s asleep.
Some passengers leave the bathroom light on, with the door cracked slightly open, but the noise of the door banging open and shut when the ship sails into rough waters might prove problematic to many noises conscious travelers.
Memories of home
Bring your kid’s favorite toy along with one or two family and home photo to decorate your cabin and combat any homesick feelings your child might feel.
In today’s digital age, a space saving alternative to packing the actual photographs is to download the pictures on an I -pad or I-phone for them so your kid can look at them.
Finding your cabin door among thousands of similar ones can be daunting for your child with autism!
To help them identify their cabin, consider bringing a picture of a familiar character or object, that your child can easily recognize to stick on your cabin door.You can either print the picture and bring it in your luggage or ask guest relations to print it off your cell after you board.
Do you have a tip for helping kids with autism feel comfortable in a cruise cabin -if so, share it with us.