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.

 

 

 

 

Visiting D-Day Normandy Beaches With Kids

Today June 6 marks the 70th anniversary of what has come to be known as D-Day.
On this day in 1944, the Allied forces composed of US, Canadian UK, and French soldiers landed simultaneously on five adjacent beaches in Normandy and launched a massive attack on the German army strategically barricaded behind a series of land mines, barbed wire, and walls nicknamed ‘the Atlantic wall’.
By the end of the day the British, Canadian and American divisions established strongholds on land and succeeded not only in breaching the German Nazi fortifications’ but changing the course of the war that eventually lead to the end of WWII.

Tips to Visiting D-Day Normandy Beaches with Kids view

Nowadays the bunkers, beaches, and cemeteries with the gravesites of the fallen soldiers are open to the public between 9-5 on a daily basis except on holidays.

Should you take your kids?

The short answer is yes; especially if your children are ten years old or older, and have already learned about WWII in history class.
It is important to talk to children about the circumstances that lead to WWII, and about how wars, in general, have impacted modern civilization and humanity.

What is there to see and how long does it take?

You can tailor the visit depending on your child’s interest and level of attention.
A typical visit can last anywhere from a couple of hours to several days exploring the different sites. The most frequented site with over 1 million of visitors a year is Omaha Beach with its adjacent American Cemetery and Point Du Hoc view of the Cliffs.
You don’t need to make special reservations but be aware that it can get more crowded around the US Memorial day and the D-day anniversary time.

Tips to Visiting D-Day Normandy Beaches with Kids bunkers

Introducing your kid to WWII

Though, most European and American children study about WWII by 6th grade, as a parent, you should still discuss the significance of the day and events before visiting. An easy way to start is to rent and watch the acclaimed ‘Saving Private Ryan’ movie that depicts the chaos and horror that ensued the landing.

Tips to Visiting D-Day Normandy Beaches with Kids fortifications

Preparing for your visit

Pack a day bag with the usual essentials like snacks, water, sunscreen, band-aids (in the case of falls) and ponchos (in the event of rain).
Be aware that most sites are outdoors; the terrain is uneven rugged and can become muddy when it rains; so closed walking shoes with anti-slip soles are highly recommended.

Tips to Visiting D-Day Normandy Beaches with Kids monument

The Highlights

Pointe du Hoc
After exploring a small exhibit at the new visitor center, your kids can roam the Nazi bunkers, gun emplacements, and deep craters on their own while wondering how it must have felt for the troops scaling the cliffs under intense fire.

Tips to Visiting D-Day Normandy Beaches with Kids underground

The American Cemetery

After you pass security; head on to the memorial site that depicts maps and descriptions of the different military operations as well as the Walls of the Missing where 1,557 names are inscribed.
Don’t forget to stop by the beautifully landscaped reflecting pool and the inspirational ‘spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves’ statue.

Tips to Visiting D-Day Normandy Beaches with Kids memory

 

Next, you can wander around the 170-acre cemetery that is located on the original burial ground established by the U.S.Army on June 8, 1944. As you walk among the over 9,387 thousand crosses and Stars of David perfectly aligned, you can solemnly salute the brave young men who died in the massive military operation.

Tips to Visiting D-Day Normandy Beaches with Kids graves
Exceptionally moving is the section where siblings and family members are buried next to each other; as the two Roosevelt brothers in Plot D, Row 28 and Niland brothers Plot F.

Tips to Visiting D-Day Normandy Beaches with Kids lake
End on an optimistic note

After visiting the cemetery, you can walk a path on the cemetery grounds that leads to the rather peaceful beach below. It is interesting to point out to your kids who that after seventy years, life in Normandy has moved on, and the beaches are used by locals to swim and relax in.

Tips to Visiting D-Day Normandy Beaches with Kids beach

Extend your visit

Stop by the small resort town of Arromanches for a picnic on the beach or quick bite in one of the cafes along the beach front.
Complete your tour at the Arromanches 360 degree theater and watch a 20- minute presentation of the invasion or check out Mulberry harbor designed and constructed by the British to facilitate the unloading of military supplies following D-Day invasion.

Tips to Visiting D-Day Normandy Beaches with Kidsflags
Autism Travel Tips

  • Consider hiring a local guide for your tour to engage your child with detailed stories of the invasion.
  •  Bring a pair of noise canceling headphones for the movie since it can become quite loud during shelling or Nazi rally clips.
  • For travelers with mobility restrictions ,wheelchairs are available free of charge but expect the paths to make for a bumpy ride.
  • Tips to Visiting D-Day Normandy Beaches with Kids tanks

Taking Autistic Kids to Paris

Guest post by Zoe Sandell

After our visit to London, we decided to visit Paris for a few days. We took the underground that took us to the Eurostar Paris Station. The station looks a bit like an airport; we still had to check in and go through security and wait to board. Our autistic son, Brodie was getting well. With a simple stamp on our passports, we got to hop on the train. Well, not literally, as Brodie would follow my exact direction and jump if I told him to.

Taking the Eurostar

The Eurostar, like all trains, has half the seats facing forwards and the other half backwards. Of course, we ended up getting rear facing seats that Brodie dislikes. He was fine until the train started to move. I have to say he didn’t get upset, but I could see the panic in his face. Luckily, we found two seats facing the right way and moved. Once settled all was well.

The actual tunnel through the channel only goes for about 20 minutes but was still exciting. Brodie watched “Madagascar” on his DVD player, and we took a walk to the café carriage for the experience.

For a reason, only Brodie knows when we did arrive in Paris, he threw himself to the ground and started banging his head (I received a few hits too). However, he made a quick recovery. A fellow passenger who sat in front of us on the train felt the need to come up and reassure us; we were doing a fantastic job Brodie and added that her grandson had autism. I thanked her and replied that at times like these. We wondered whether we are crazy for traveling with him around the world. She reassured me we were giving Brodie unusual experiences. Her answer brought tears to my eyes.

Taking Autistic Kids To Paris eiffel

Photo Credit-Zoe Sandell

Paris!

So we finally arrived at Paris-city of lights. My first impression was I needed to hold onto my handbags and watch my pockets! There were posted signs all over the station warning travelers of pickpockets. We were approached by several girls pretending to be collecting donations for disabled kids.

Finding our next train (the regional RER) was quite an ordeal too.We needed to get change for the ticket machine. My dad (who was traveling with us) had me worried when he headed off with some young boys trying to sell used train tickets as a scam! Our older son, Harley as I have mentioned before was a superstar – fantastic at helping work out which lifts we needed to take and where the train platforms were.

The train (when we found it) took us directly to the Eiffel Tower. If you want to go to the top of the Tower. I would advise you to book tickets in advance to skip the long lines at the register. The caveat was that we arrived too early for our time slot, so we were stuck sitting around waiting. So we passed the time getting lunch and some souvenirs. A few trips to the restroom and we were ready to hit the line up (yes, there was a separate one for the pre-booked tickets)

Visiting the Eiffel Tower

Going to the top of the Eiffel Tower isn’t as easy as it may sound! Many times the weather can be windy or cold, so they close the top off to visitors. Some days the top may be open, but there is no view if it is cloudy.

On the day we visited, it was a perfect! At one point during our lining up, the sign said the top of the tower was closed due to congestion, so we weren’t sure if we would make it! Congestion also meant elevator rides with hoards of strangers, but Brodie managed to behave wonderfully on both elevators (first and second levels).Certainly worth a ride on the carousel as a reward afterwards! The view was incredible, and just the fact that we had a child with severe Autism ON THE TOP of the Eiffel Tower was enough to blow our minds!

The train back from the Eiffel tower to the central train station where we had left our bags was incredibly crowded too. We squeezed onto the train, and there was a woman in front of me with a pusher with a small child in it and another young child holding onto it. She kept saying to me “no space, no space” while people behind me were still pushing me forward into her so that they could get onboard.

At this point, I was expecting Brodie to lose it! But no he dealt with being a human sardine so well!  You just cannot imagine the amount of people on that metro train.As we got off more and more people just piled onto the train, and all I could think was that woman, and her small children were still in there somewhere!

Taking Autistic Kids to Paris disneyland

Photo credit-Zoe Sandell

We picked up our bags from the lockers and boarded the train to Disneyland  Paris ( quite far from the actual city ).It was at that point Brodie said “you know what, I’ve had enough”  and proceeded to lie down on the floor in the station and cry!

By this point, we had all pretty tired and were relieved when we arrived at our apartment one train stop away from Euro Disneyland. It was almost magical to put Brodie to bed that night and show him in his social story where he would be going to the next morning.

Disneyland Paris

EuroDisneyland was incredible! We had a marvelous time riding the rides for two days straight.We decided NOT to hire a wheelchair for Brodie but did buy him a well deserved “Mickey Mouse” balloon for walking that long.

What we did get was Disney’s disability access pass. This is incredible and if you ever take autistic kids to Disneyland, do get one of these (we also did it in Los Angeles). The staff in EuroDisney was helpful but this time, we did have to show a doctor’s note stating Brodie had Autism. The last time we visited he was in his wheelchair, so we didn’t have to do that. The pass was easy to get and cast members were only too happy to explain how it worked.

The pass works a little different in Paris than in Los Angeles. In L.A, you walk up to the exit and wait until they have a spot to put you on the ride thus avoiding the line. In fact, we could all go with Brodie on the ride which was great, so we could all stay together. In EuroDisney, each ride had a number next to it, and this was the number of people plus Brodie, who could use the exit to access the ride. There are some rides where you could go to the exit and book a time to come back and do that ride. No matter, matter the systems it meant lines were shorter, which helped us get to the parks quicker! Honestly, we didn’t even have to use the pass so much since most weren’t that long, but we still liked having it as an option.

What a wonderful initiative from Disneyland -we can’t thank them enough for making our lives easier!

Taking Autistic Kids to Paris castle

Photo credit-Zoe Sandell

Our Mentionable  EuroDisney Highlights are:

Dad noticed that one of the rollercoasters was going to close the following day for maintenance, so we went across to Disneyworld and had three turns on that one before it closed the next day.
The Tower of Terror was Harley’s and my favorite in LA, and I think this time it turned into Brodie’s favorite too.It features a sharp drop.Here  I’m sitting telling Tim to hold onto to Brodie since he doesn’t know it is about to drop.I the meanwhile Brodie is pushing Tim’s hands away and as soon as the ride drops-Brodie lets out a hilarious giggle and signs he wants more as soon as it was done.Totally priceless! Of course, I had to buy them both a Tower of Terror T-shirt!
I don’t remember the official name, but we called it the turtle rollercoaster ride. It featured a character from “Finding Nemo” based on the turtles riding the East Australian Current.  This ride was a “kids” rollercoaster, but it was quite extreme (a part we forgot to mention to mum before she had a turn on it.)
We enjoyed lunch in “pizza planet”, watched some shows and a Parade.AAfter all, you can’t go to Disneyland and not see a Parade!

Sacre Coeur and Montmartre

The third day after visiting  “the largest shopping mall you have ever seen” and an adjacent “sea life” park, we enjoyed a short cruise on the Seine.Mum and I decided to take the boys for a walk to the famous church of Montmartre, Sacre-Coeur.The walk was a little scary at times but fascinating.We liked the cable car ride up the hill.As we entered the Church, we saw the signs asking visitors to keep quiet. We were half way through our tour and remembered thinking to myself that  Brodie must have known he has to be quiet since he was so good. The very next minute he made one of the loudest noises he possibly could!  Harley and I both told him to stop which further set him off.Guess he enjoyed our reaction so much he decided to do an encore.Needless to say, we all made a very quick exit.Later that evening we re-joined the men and caught the EuroStar back to London.

Taking Autistic Kids to Paris city

photo credit-Zoe Sandell

I can safely say we officially rocked Paris!

Q&A with Christine Frances Poe of Travelling Tikko™

Q&A with Christine Frances Poe of Travelling Tikko™ plane

Please introduce us to  your family

I live with my husband Brett and our sons Bryce ( 13) and Dorian ( 10) in Burlington, Ontario in Canada. Brett works in transportation and loves jamming with the “Kanuck” band while I’m an entrepreneur working from home. My passions include advocating for autism, writing, singing, and performing puppet shows.
Bryce, our son, loves acting and wants to follow in my family’s footsteps.
My mom Hazel Gorin is Maynard’s original ‘Sour Granny’; my dad is Ken Gorin; a church singer (Sacrifice); my sister Stephanie Gorin; a Toronto Casting Director and my brother-in-law is Joe Bostick; Fight Director/Actor. My two nephews are also in the ‘biz’ Devon Bostick who played Rodrick in ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid’ and Jesse Bostick who was Antonello in ‘The Borgias’.
Dorian also has the ‘showbiz’ bug and dreams of being a rock star one day, and music teacher working with autistic children.

Why do you like to travel

Living with an autistic child is challenging since public awareness, and acceptance is lacking.
Venturing out causes “anxiety” for our family.
Travelling takes more preparation and a lot more time to ease our child into the journey though it is a welcome escape from the “norm”.

How would you describe your preferred family travel style?

We love travelling by car.
Going on “ adventure rides”, we stop periodically; meeting new people along the way. Landscapes engage my children in something other than “electronics” which is wonderful. By the way, our favorite travel game is ‘Punch Buggy’.

How has travel helped your family? 

When you live with autism, the family dynamic can be strained. Bryce’s need for “alone time” hurts Dorian’s feelings; causing some of his meltdowns. During our car travels, both brothers find ways to co-exist amicably, so it’s “quality time” for the entire family.

Q&A with Christine Frances Poe of Travelling Tikko™ carousel

What is your best vacation memory?

My favourite vacation was our honeymoon to Myrtle Beach.
Brett and I left before sunrise.Without planning a route or knowing where we would sleep along the way, we played it by ear. We also took turns driving throughout the night.  It felt quite adventurous.

 

What was your worst vacation story?

Our family vacationed at a Collingwood resort offering a kids’ summer camp. Needing a break from the everyday chaos, we enrolled Dorian in their half-day camp. After a couple of hours, they requested we pick Dorian up. Apparently, after he was ordered to leave the pool, by the lifeguard, Dorian screamed, “No!”  Then, flailing his arms, Dorian accidentally fractured the nose of the counselor coming to console him.
Though Dorian apologized the next day, his camp participation was terminated.

What has your son learnt from traveling?

We haven’t ventured outside of Ontario yet, so Dorian has learned very little about the outside world.
We’re hoping that will change this year when we take our first big trip to Orlando, Florida.

What does your family travel bucket list look like?

Bryce dreams of travelling by air.
I’d love to enjoy an early morning latté at an outdoor Paris café; Dorian wants to visit Egypt and Brett dreams of visiting somewhere exotic.

Q&A with Christine Frances Poe of Travelling Tikko™ plane

How did you come up with the concept of your project?

My friend Karen Ellis shared the story of a little girl with cancer who wanted to travel but couldn’t.

So, she sent her teddy bear to travel around the world instead of her. She saw the world through the bear’s eyes; and from postcards she received.
It was a lovely story, and when I shared it with Dorian, he responded, “Mommy, I want to send TIKKO™ (Dorian’s GANZ Webkinz Polar Bear) into the world to raise autism awareness!

 I don’t want people to keep TIKKO™; I’d miss him too much.”  I replied, “Why don’t we ask our friends to take TIKKO™ on vacation and bring him back when the trip is over? ”  Dorian loved the idea.
And that’s how Travelling Tikko™”  started!

As TIKKO™ travels, I research local autism organizations where he visits, AND posT links on Facebook’s Travelling Tikko™ page.
By taking TIKKO™ on vacation, families help raise autism awareness and their vacation photos are shared on Facebook.

Where do you see yourself five years from now?

I avoid “five-year plans.
My angels will guide me where I’m meant to go.
I would love to see more people advocating for autism; understanding ASD with love and compassion.
Ultimately, this is Dorian’s legacy.  For now, I am his voice, helping Dorian realize his dream of making the world a better place.

 

 


Q&A with Donna Ciccia Parent and Nutritionist

 

 

What made you chose a skiing vacation for your family?

We wanted to have a family “White Christmas” experience.
Coming from Australia, we only get hot summer Christmas’. My mother wished to experience a traditional White Christmas, and we decided to include skiing with this experience.

 Q&A with Donna Ciccia Autism Parent & Homeopathic Nutritionist forest


How did you prepare your son for the trip?


We didn’t do all that much for preparation. We pointed out what snow looked like, described to him that it would be cold and showed him movies of skiing and showed him pictures of places we would be visiting. He was looking forward to going to the Intrepid & F.A.O Schwartz in New York after skiing.

 Q&A with Donna Ciccia Autism Parent & Homeopathic Nutritionist stairs


Did you buy your son anything in particular for the trip?

We purchased a lot of warm clothes & ski goggles & tried everything on to get the feel of it.

 Q&A with Donna Ciccia Autism Parent & Homeopathic Nutritionist sled


How did your son react to climate change?

He was not used to the cold but adapted very well.
The school helper ‘Nanna Barbara‘ knitted all the kids beanies (hat) as a Christmas present and it worked well for us as he was excited to wear it.

 

 Q&A with Donna Ciccia Autism Parent & Homeopathic Nutritionist ski


Did you ask for any food accommodations?

No, as he will try most things and has no allergies. We were traveling with a lot of kids, so we knew we would be eating to accommodate them all.

 Q&A with Donna Ciccia Autism Parent & Homeopathic Nutritionist ice cream


How did your son adapt to the clothing and equipment needed for skiing?

We were lucky that he adapted well with all of the changes in clothing & climate. He was excited to get his ski’s & helmet etc.

Did any other family members/friends join you and help out?

We had all my family with us. My parents,  brothers,  sister and their families. So all sixteen of us traveled together.

 Q&A with Donna Ciccia Autism Parent & Homeopathic Nutritionist dinner


How do you find any time for yourself during vacation?

We had this as a family vacation although we did split up into groups on numerous occasions. We all traveled from Sydney to Beijing (transfer only) and then onto Vancouver. We spent a week in Vancouver and then all traveled together in a privately hired bus to Kelowna & Big White Ski Resort for ten days. Some family members returned to Australia; others went to Seattle, and some stayed at Big White for another month. We then traveled with my parents to New York and met up with some other family members there. We spent another six days in New York and two nights in Beijing on the way home.

 Q&A with Donna Ciccia Autism Parent & Homeopathic Nutritionist christmas


How did your son enjoy the experience?

He loved every minute of it!

What do you think he got out of the experience?

Every time we travel he matures and is curious about different places and is always asking “Can we go there next?”

 Q&A with Donna Ciccia Autism Parent & Homeopathic Nutritionist nyc


Would you consider doing this again and why?

This vacation was a once in a lifetime trip- we traveled for one month which was fabulous but may be a hard thing to pull off again anytime soon.

Best moment on the trip?

Too many to just name one.

 Q&A with Donna Ciccia Autism Parent & Homeopathic Nutritionist china


Worst moment on the trip?

Hurting my knee skiing so I could ski with the rest of the family.

 

If you had the chance for a do-over; what would it be?

Stay longer on the East coast of the US so we could explore more places. Maybe that’s the next trip.

 Q&A with Donna Ciccia Autism Parent & Homeopathic Nutritionist beijing

 

How Visualizing Your Trip is Key to Successful Travel

 

One of the best ways to plan a successful vacation especially when traveling with kids on the autism spectrum is by visualizing your trip in advance.
Scrutinizing your travel itinerary details carefully along with creating an alternative plan for unexpected scenarios is not only useful but can ultimately make the difference between a stressful even ruined trip and a memorable one.

Why visualizing your trip can be the key to a successful vacation airport

Though the process will be different for everyone, the basic steps are the same.
For those readers who have a hard time doing this on their own: here are over sixty tips to help.

Packing

  • Have you checked your suitcases: wheels, handles, zippers?
  • What will the weather be like?
  • Take extra clothes in carry on  and daily bag for spills or other mishaps
  • Have you purchased any temporary tattoos or stitched any safety patches on your kid with autism clothes in the case they wander off?
  • Pack two pairs of comfortable shoes (in case one pair gets wet) and enough underwear
  • Don’t forget prescribed and over the counter Medicines as well as any medical equipment  (if you travel abroad you should know that the many US over the counter meds may not be available )
  • Take electronic devices with cords, toys, and items to make your child comfortable during travel?
  • Research where you can buy things if you suddenly need to buy something fast?
  • Can you have items directly delivered to your destination instead of carrying them? Diapers? Special foods?
  • Do you need any door alarms, mats and night lights for your lodging place?
  • What sundries like special soap, shampoo, sunscreen,insect repellant do you need to buy?

Flight/Bus/Train 

  • How will you be getting to and from the airport/s?
  • Are there any airline or airport regulations you don’t about? (CHECK!)
  • Are all your documents in order?
  • Have your bookings changed?
  • Are you taking a red eye flight?
  • Will you need fresh clothes or any other items upon arrival?
  • How will you navigate a strange and crowded airport with tight connections, luggage, and kids?
  • What’s your Plan B if there are delays, and you are stuck at the airport; will you stay, leave for a hotel?
  • What accommodations do you need on flight or airport? Have you asked for any?
  • What are your seats? Are they together? Have they changed?
  • What Food and entertainment do you need?
  • What items do you need for the trip?
  • Will you have checked luggage or carry-on?
  • Do you have insurance if your luggage is delayed or lost?

Cruises

  • Check all the documentation including visas and make sure it is all in order.
  • Have you arranged for transportation to/from the ship?
  • Have you notified the cruise line of accommodations?Bedding? Food? Allergies?
  • Will you need to rent a wheelchair or stroller?
  • Who do you contact if accommodations aren’t met?
  • Have you booked any shore excursions? Privately? Through the cruise line? Do you need any additional transportation? Any tickets to attractions you need to purchase ahead of time?
  • What extra items do you to pack like bedding/clothes/toys/medicines?

Car travel

  • Will you be driving in your vehicle? Will you be renting?
  • Seat comfort? Do you need any Booster or Car seat?
  • What entertainment options do you have?
  • Have you planned stops along the way? Bathrooms? Food?
  • Do you have collision coverage on your credit card?AAA? Do you need to purchase additional coverage?

Hotel or any other lodging

  • Will you have WiFi? Should you get a mobile hot spot?
  • Is there A/C and heating? Central? Control in every room?
  • What’s the proximity to markets? Restaurants? Department stores if you need to buy an item quickly?
  • Access to a fridge? Kitchenette?
    Is there free breakfast offered?
    Can you upgrade to the executive lounge?
  • Do you need to request extra bed linens, pillows, towels?  Cribs or rollaway needed?
  • Is the hotel planning any remodeling or festivities that can affect your stay?
  • Pool safety for kids: are there lifeguards, life jackets?
    Balcony safety: extra locks?


    Attractions/theme parks

    Should you buy tickets in advance?

  • Are there any autism accommodations available?
  • Do you have a backup plan in case of bad weather?
  • Do you need to rent a stroller or wheelchair?
  • What clothing do you need (ponchos)  and what isn’t recommended like flip flops?
  • What are the food options nearby? GFCF options?

 In the event of an emergency

  • Do you have the necessary medicines for a common cold, stomach flu and skin rash with you?
  • Is there someone at home who has your cell phone number or can you get an international phone?
  • Do you have a skype or facebook messenger account?
  • Traveling abroad? Get info about your country’s  embassy location?
    Closest hospital to your lodging? Closest Vet (if you are traveling with a service animal)?
  • Medical records including current prescriptions in a zip file or memory stick /if any family member is suffering from medical conditions. Vaccination documents
  • Did you purchase travel insurance? Know what you are covered for. Some credit cards provide additional coverage to cardholders.

General preparation

Have you downloaded

  • Your airline, cruise line, and hotel app for easy communication.
  • Your home insurance company and alarm system if there’s any trouble while you are away.
  • Transportation app like Lyft or Uber
  • Restaurant app like Yelp.
  • Map app like Google maps.
  • AAA app or equivalent if you need roadside assistance.
  • Translator and tip calculator if you travel overseas.
  • During your travel are there any events, festivities that can interfere with your plans?

What are your visualizing tips to ensure nothing goes wrong on your vacation?

Debunking Autism Travel Myths

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.

Debunking Autism Travel Myths globe

 

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.

Debunking Autism Travel Myths florence

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.

Debunking Autism Travel Myths christchurch

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.

Debunking Autism Travel Myths paris

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.

Debunking Autism Travel Myths italy

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.

Debunking Autism Travel Myths london


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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