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

Q&A with Tony Gross of ‘TalkRocketGo’ mobile app

TalkRocket Go, the product of Canadian based company MyVoice, is an innovative mobile application for i-Pads and i-Phones that utilize voice synthesis technology to allow verbal communication for people with autism and brain injuries.
Some of the app’s unique features include: “locabularies”–location (GPS) based phrases—and an interactive “support studio” that enables family members or teachers to pre-program and add phrases as needed via Wi-Fi.
We chatted with MyVoice community director Tony Gross—who is a parent of a special needs child himself—to hear more about how the app can help travelers with autism.

Tony Gross :Community Director for 'TalkRocketGo' vacation

How did your company come up with the product?

TalkRocket Go was inspired by a lack of affordable speech aid options with personal and age-appropriate customization.
TRG harnesses GPS technology to create “location aware” vocabularies as well as enabling family members and therapists to program it remotely from any computer.

TalkRocket Go is the most accessible AAC application for physical disabilities and is used by thousands of people worldwide (both in English and in French) in all age groups (with our largest group being individuals with autism.)

photo 2Tony Gross :Community Director for 'TalkRocketGo' pack

What are the benefits of using TalkRocket Go for travelers with special needs?.

TalkRocket Go’ can be used to express basic or complex needs, make choices, and even engage in meaningful conversation.The result is inclusion in all aspects of life from education to employment to travel.
With the right tools and preparation, there is no reason families shouldn’t travel with family members with autism.

The behaviors and unforeseen circumstances most parents fear, usually stem from an inability to express oneself or cope with a situation the special -needs person feels outside their control. The app provides a voice for individuals with autism to self-advocate and to develop a greater sense of independence.

Furthermore, its vocabulary can be customized to include the person’s particular trip details such as itinerary, various addresses and phone numbers, favorite foods, and how to communicate in an emergency (or if lost).
Additionally, actual (personal or online) photos of airports, hotels or attractions can be added to the personal profile to help the special needs traveler identify the places he or she will be visiting.

photo -Tony Gross :Community Director for 'TalkRocketGo' essentials

Going through airports checks can be stressful for people with autism. How can the app help?

Details are important to those with autism so having every step of a trip documented, from taxi rides, check in at terminals, security, and customs, to in-flight experiences and what to do when things go wrong can be incredibly reassuring for travelers with autism.
The ease of programming on an i-Phone or i-Pad allows for the addition of digital pictures and new words in real time over Wi-Fi to address any unforeseen events.

 

photo 4-Tony Gross :Community Director for 'TalkRocketGo' flying

How can the app help with travel?

All they would need to do is pre-program details and photos of the person’s destination, home address, family or friends’ phone numbers, and phrases to ask for help.
The location awareness feature (GPS) of the i-Phone or i-Pad device can assist the travelers to navigate while TalkRocket Go’s ‘locabularies’ can offer words related to closest places. For example, while near or at your hotel, a folder of “hotel” words like a room, key, and passport will appear at the top of a list.

Can parents use the app to create social stories for traveling kids?

Absolutely!
With the application, every picture with words can become a full-screen image.
One can tap to speak or swipe through like a digital book (which is easy, especially for younger kids).

 

Supporter-StudioTony Gross :Community Director for 'TalkRocketGo' screen


What sets your product apart from your competitors?

Every feature of TalkRocket Go pioneered something new or more sophisticated than other alternatives.
Introducing the use of any images, ‘locabularies’, and an appearance tailored to young, teenage, or adult users are the top features.

The online studio lets any supporter add content from anywhere that syncs instantly with a user’s device and is automatically backed up. This “cloud” design can also let you access your words across multiple different devices, whether it is an i-Pad in one setting, an i-Pod for portability in another, or even on a parent’s i-Phone as a reassuring backup. It’s sophisticated, easy to use and not technologically intimidating to families.

 Tony Gross :Community Director for 'TalkRocketGo'

“Rachael Gross, age 17, lives with CP as a result of an acquired brain injury that happened while traveling around the world at age 5.
Despite many challenges, Rachael, and her family have resumed their travels; visiting Florida twice and Paris once. Their next destination will be New York City and hopefully a return visit to Paris, their all-time favorite.” Rachael already has her French TalkRocket Go AAC app ready to go.

 

 

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.

 

 


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 Jackie Martin-Sebell Autism Mom

” Zachary has several food and environmental allergies, so the epi-pen and allergy medicines go wherever he goes. We also always have some of his ‘safe’ foods. In the case of over-stimulation or stress; the sensory bag comes which includes weighted blankets for the boys, sensory brush, and sensory necklace .”

Q&A with Jackie Martin-Sebell Autism Mom

photo credit Jackie Martin Sebell

Hello,
My name is Jackie Martin-Sebell. I am a student studying psychology, an independent consultant with Tastefully Simple, a parent mentor, autism advocate, a wife to my husband Michael, and most importantly the mom to three and stepmom to two.
Our kids range from sixteen and seven years old. Our youngest two; Zachary and Michael, have autism as well as many other medical needs.

We try to use every moment possible as a teaching moment; whether it be visiting the local nature center and learning about animals, or using flashcards in the form of a game.
We love to travel and try not to let our individual needs deter or stop us.
 I grew up in a military family who traveled a lot, and as much as possible, I would like to give my kids the same.

Because of my boys’ needs, we always go on outings prepared for anything; whether it’s a day trip two miles away to nana and papa’s house, the local park, or a mini-vacation (which are usually for doctor appointments) twelve hours away.
If I’ve learned anything over the years; it’s that I’d rather take something and not need it, than be somewhere needing it, and not be able to get it.

Zachary has several food and environmental allergies, so the epi-pen and allergy medicines are life-saving necessities and go wherever he goes.To be on the safe side, we also pack some of his special foods since there have been instances that we couldn’t find any foods to suit his restricted diet in local food venues.

For those cases of over-stimulation or stress; we always bring a sensory bag along that includes weighted blankets for the boys, sensory brushes, and even sensory necklaces.
Because our son, Michael gets frequent energy crashes, leg pains, and has recently suffered an ischemic stroke, we always have his heated blanket and stroller, handy for times we will be gone longer than a couple of hours.

One tip we swear by is that we should always have plenty of stuff for the kids to do in the car, depending on the length of the drive (books and pen/paper for the shorter rides and a movie and toys for longer trips.) Although it may seem like a lot to bring; believe me, it is totally worth it.
And if all else fails we can always play the license plate game.
We also try to drive during ‘good times’ which means that if the drive is a long one we’ll drive during the night while the kids are asleep and take a few breaks along the way. 

For the most part, it works out well for everyone, and so far our children still enjoy outings as a family!

 

Q&A with Gretchen Mansfield Wilson of Sean House

 

“When Sean and I travel, I take a plastic bed cover (he still wets the bed sometimes), his medication box along with a change of clothes and his cane. That’s it. Sean travels light.”

 

Q&A with Gretchen Mansfield Wilson of Sean House

photo credit Gretchen Mansfield Wilson

Hi everyone,
My name is Gretchen  Mansfield Wilson, and I am the mother of four adult kids and eight grandkids, with another on the way!
All of my grandkids are wonderful.
Sean is my second grandchild and is thirty-two years old.I’ve raised him, and am his legal guardian since he was born blind with no optic nerves and has also been diagnosed as autistic.
My philosophy for educating autistic kids is that everything is not for everyone.
I have never wanted to mainstream Sean in the public education system since he needed way too much assistance and functioned at the lower end of the autism spectrum. Inclusion might work better for others, especially if the child can learn and not disrupt the classroom but like I said before, it isn’t for everyone.With Sean, I chose to work on his blindness rather than his autism since I considered that the larger challenge to overcome.When he grew older, and I realized that he ould need to live independently, I started Sean’s House in Houston, Texas, a nonprofit organization that provides housing and services to individuals with disabilities.He attended the Texas School for the Blind for three years and came home every weekend.The school is one of the top three in the nation and the teachers there worked with Sean on developing life skills as there were many other kids there with autism. After that, he was transitioned back to our local school and was very fortunate in that he always had good teachers!

When Sean and I travel, I pack a plastic bed cover along (he still wets the bed sometimes), his medication box along with changes of clothes and his cane.That’s it. Sean travels quite light!

There had been only one time when we had to make a packing exception which was when we had to evacuate for a hurricane coming our way, and we were most fortunate to find any place to stay, but it was an outdoors camp.
Despite his physical challenges, Sean has successfully, traveled by boat, airplane and car. He is excellent in the car except when he keeps saying “hamburger “over and over, throwing his hand over my mouth to feel my lips saying it.I taught him that at a very young age and he still does that at thirty-two!

I can always tell if he is apprehensive on a boat or plane since he sits upright and holds on to the seat.However, that has never become an issue or hindrance of any kind for us not to go anywhere.

I love traveling with Sean to expose him new experiences.
We went to Mexico back in 2009 and visited Tulum and Chankanaab Eco-Park.
His favorite experience so far has been going to the beach or just being in the water.
Taking him on a cruise with ‘Autism on the Seas’ has long been on my bucket list, and I hope to cross it off soon.

 

 

Q&A with Katrina Moody Autism Blogger

“The kind of jump in development that our youngest, Logan, especially enjoyed after that major trip has encouraged us to break out of the trap of staying home too much.”

Q&A with Katrina Moody Autism Blogger

photo credit Katrina Moody


Hello there. I’m Katrina Moody, and I’m wife and mother to some pretty incredible men as well as a family blogger.
My husband and three boys all have the same rare disorder, which adds additional diagnoses of Autism, Epilepsy, Cerebral Palsy, and Vision Loss, among other things.
Our home has always been an open environment as we have utilized techniques learned in “The Special Needs Child” by Stanley Greenspan.

Our lives are one large circle waiting to be closed. Sights, sounds, experiences are all ways to help close one, create others. Each circle closed is another step forward in helping our children meet their potential.

Going out with three boys on the spectrum (not to mention seizures) is a difficult proposition. We’ve had to cancel plans at the last minute so many times that we aren’t invited to many events any longer.Our close circle of friends and family know by now that if we don’t show up it is nothing personal.


We have a packing ritual to make sure we don’t forget anything important at home.We pack both daily and emergency medicines, diapers, wipes, changes of clothes, and just about every other thing we can think of.We were able, however, to make a magical trip to Florida last year to visit relatives and
Disney, of course.

It was an incredible experience for the entire family, with only a couple breakthrough seizures.We experienced, for the first time, an extraordinary closing and creating of multiple circles in development as the experiences helped to challenge our boys.The best part was the fact that the kids were able to deal (mostly) with the experience with few meltdowns and much excitement.The experience was so enjoyable for each boy in their own way so much so that we have already made plans to go back as a family, hopefully, next year

The kind of jump in development that our youngest, Logan, especially enjoyed after that major trip has encouraged and inspired us to break out of the trap of staying home too much and we are a lot more open to the idea of taking vacations than we’ve been in years. The boys are now actively planning our next adventure, and I can’t wait to see those family circles closing and forming all over again.

 

 

     

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