Q&A with Beth Henry of Cloud Surfing Kids

 

Beth Henry is a flight attendant and a busy mom of two energetic kids. On her website, Cloud Surfing Kids, she shares tips for flying with kids., based on her professional and parental experiences.
Beth has always had a keen interest in child development and psychology and is fascinated with how her daughter, Ella’s mind works. (Ella is a Sensory Seeker and has ADHD: hyper-focus. )
This month we sat down with Beth to hear more about how parents can help their kids with sensory integration challenges enjoy travel better.

Q&A with Beth Henry of Cloud Surfing Kids flying

Photo credit Beth Henry

How did you start traveling? 

My very first flight was when I moved from Kansas to Texas at age six. I don’t remember anything about it except that my ears hurt so bad while the aircraft was descending that the flight attendant gave me “Mickey Mouse ears” (Styrofoam cups with hot towels inside) to help with the pain. Nowadays, that remedy is no longer recommended as it has been proven as unhelpful and a risk of getting burned.

The next time I flew, I was at fifteen when I got to go on a school trip to Australia! That experience triggered the desire to travel for me.

After several travel opportunities with school—to South Australia, Hawaii, Seattle, Chicago,  and Moscow, Russia, I recognized the joys of exploring new places and meeting people from different backgrounds. In my early twenties, I had the plan to move from city to city every six, so I could explore and get a real feel of the place.  I just wanted to soak in the culture and rhythm of different destinations.
I never got a chance to follow through with that plan, but now as a flight attendant, I get to experience different cities just as I had desired.

Why is it important for you to travel?

I believe that travel helps make people more flexible in life
It helps us better understand other people and cultures. It also helps us appreciate the comforts of home.

 

Q&A with Beth Henry of Cloud Surfing Kids tree

Photo credit Beth Henry

 

How has traveling with special- needs changed your travel style?

My seven-year-old daughter, Ella has Sensory Processing Disorder and ADHD (over-focused). She was not diagnosed with these until recently, so I didn’t realize I was experiencing anything different than other travelers when I traveled with her. I would get compliments from other passengers about how attentive and understanding I was with her, but I didn’t realize it was unique.

Her additional needs don’t change how we travel; it just means I need to prepare more than others might.
For instance, where other kids might be okay with just one small toy to keep them occupied for a long meal, she needs to have a good variety of activities.
I feel like the way I prepare for travel would benefit all parents, whether or not their child has special needs.

Fondest memory from travel would be?

My daughter, Ella’s excitement each time we take off and land. She yells, “HIT THE BRAKES!” when we touch down.

Do you share your child’s  disability with other people?

Sometimes I do mention that she has “sensory issues” if I know there will be something that will bother her, or if I need to explain her behavior if she is reacting to sensory overload.
I don’t usually tell people in advance since her meltdowns rarely happen in public.

Girl with family Q&A with Beth Henry of Cloud Surfing Kids

Photo credit Beth Henry

Any tips to avoid kids from getting  ‘sensory overloaded’ during traveling?

I am lucky that Ella is a sensory ‘seeker’, not a sensory ‘avoider’.
So, most things in our travel day are exciting to her.
I try to help her stay balanced by incorporating lots of proprioceptive activities in our day.
I always have supplies with me that can help calm her if she gets upset. Chewing gum, playing with Play-Doh, holding a soft stuffed animal, listening to music, and snacks all contribute to keeping her calm.
I try to read her closely to avoid sensory overload, but when she does have a meltdown, the fastest way to calm her is to give her something to eat. Even two M&M’s will sometimes help her gain control of herself again and then we can address what is causing the sensory overload.

Items you would never leave home without are?

A change of clothes, diaper wipes, snacks, bubbles, water bottle or straw cup.

What do you do when stuck in the airport?

If there is a lengthy delay, I buy a day pass to the Airline Club Lounge. There we have a less chaotic atmosphere, nice bathrooms, snacks, and sometimes a kid’s room. It is worth every penny because it helps keeps everyone in the family more relaxed.
Other things we do to make things fun during a delay are:  ride the airport train, explore the art (or even advertisements) throughout the airport, or look for a children’s play area if they have one.

Girl Smiling Q&A with Beth Henry of Cloud Surfing Kids

Photo Credit Beth Henry

What are your best strategies to lessen kids’ anxieties on flights?

 We always bring a plush blanket, plush stuffed toy, headphones with a  music player, chewing gum and chewy candy to help maintain a calm feeling on the aircraft.
As Ella has been on over 200 flights, she doesn’t experience anxiety over flying, but if she is having an “off” day, the sensory overload can make the flight challenging.
Distraction works best for her if she starts to get upset, so I always bring a large variety of snacks and toys. Bubbles are my “emergency” tool to help her relax. I always pack a tiny bottle of bubbles.

What would be your ideal hotel room?

Mmm, that would be a  two-bedroom suite with kitchenette and black out curtains.
Ella doesn’t eat much, but it would be helpful to be able to keep the basic foods I know she’ll eat in the hotel room. Until she was four and a half, she would wake at the first hint of light, which was hard to us as parents. Luckily, she now will sleep past dawn if she’s still tired.

On your trips do you go or avoid ‘touristy’ attractions?

I love to explore ‘touristy’ attractions!
But since my daughter enjoys a visit to the pet store nearly as much as Disney World (okay, not quite that much, but maybe as much as the zoo), I don’t rush to experience everything all at once.
I remind myself there is plenty of time in the future to do things like NYC Times Square at night, which would be way too much sensory input for her right now.

How do you keep memories alive for your kids after the trip is over?

Photographs are the best since they keep us talking about our adventures year after year. I try to put them into photo books but haven’t since my son was born 2.5 years ago.

Beth Henry, a busy mom and flight attendant shares her best tips how to help kids with sensory disorders enjoy their travels better.

Photo credit Beth Henry

Theme Park Tips when Traveling with Autism

This month’s ‘Ask Margalit’ question comes all the way from  South Africa via e-mail.The writer, a mom who would like to visit the US theme parks with her child on the autism spectrum, is asking for tips on how to accomodate her son with his sensory challenges.

 

Hi Margalit,
My name is Marietjie, and I’m from Bloemfontein in South Africa.
My 11 year old son has autism and loves all sorts of sensory experiences even though he communicates with sounds, not words. We won a prize to visit Walt Disney World  and we are so excited. As we have never been to anything like this before, it will be entirely new.
Do you have any suggestions and advice for us?
Thanks so much.

Dear Marietjie
Congratulations!!!
What a wonderful opportunity for you and your son.
Theme parks are one of the places my son loves to go to, and we have traveled to quite a few as a family. In fact, we attend the yearly Travelingmom retreat at WDW every April.
Since each visit and theme park present a learning experience. I am happy to share the following tips with you.

Theme Park Tips when Traveling with Autism tree
Safety First

One of the most important things in my opinion is safety and security so my tips will reflect this.
When my son was younger, I was concerned that he might get lost so I made sure he was dressed in bright and bold colors making him stand out. I took pictures of him each morning in his clothes for the day so that we would be able to display a recent photo for recognition, in the event that we became separated.

You mentioned that your son doesn’t use words; I would recommend using a temporary tattoo with his information and maybe a picture App like TalkRocketGo for cell phones that help users ask for directions.
On the same note, there are GPS apps like Life360 that can pinpoint your child’s whereabouts.

Even now that our children are older, as soon as we get to the park we still arrange a meeting place in the event that someone gets lost or there is any other emergency. We all take a picture of the meeting point so we have it on our phones.

Theme Park Tips when Traveling with Autism apes

Clothing is the next ‘big’ problem

The next issue for me is practical and weather-related– clothing.
I always avoided loose-fitting and baggy clothing, accessories like scarves, hats and gloves and things with strings; anything that could get caught or fall or make him trip.
You didn’t say what time of the year you will be traveling and which theme park but if your son has sensory issues like mine does, bring your chosen brand of insect repellant and sunscreen and a set of extra clothes to change into if he gets wet.
I also recommend closed shoes , not flip flops as some rides have a moving platform to entering and exit from.

Theme Park Tips when Traveling with Autism river

Map your trip out!

I always did as much research as possible about the park that we would be visiting to educate myself to prepare my son. He always felt more secure knowing about each of the rides and knowing what to expect meant that there was less chance of being overwhelmed and having a meltdown.
Make sure you make note of bathroom locations  (bring duct tape to cover the automatic sensor if he is scared of automatic toilets) and quiet spots to take refuge in if the ‘going gets tough.’
I always say that being proactive is so important.
I have done my best to make my son be part of his own safety and security by teaching him about the different security features on the rides.
Seatbelts of course are extremely important. They should be kept ON the whole duration of the ride.
I had to remind my son to not stick his hands and feet out of the ride and not to touch anything.
He also needed to be told to be polite and not kick the seats in front of him.
It’s important to heed the rules of the park and know that you can rely on the staff’s guidance because they are there to help.

So, these are my tips in a nutshell.
Of course you are more than welcome to go through the website posts and find so many other tips that I have shared throughout the years.

I hope you have a fantastic and fun visit!

Tips for Successful Family Reunions with Autism

The summer vacation is here and with it, invitations to family gatherings and reunions.
For many of us, family gatherings mean happy celebrations and the creation of beautiful memories but for families with autism, they can spell meltdowns and stress.
Since several parents have asked me for tips to help their kids with autism attend family reunions, I decided to compile a short list of the ten best for parents to bookmark, save and share with others.

 

Tips for Successful Family Reunions with Autism family

Introduce your family

Take the time to sit with your kid and introduce him/her to the people they would be meeting at the reunion.
Sharing old family photographs and family stories ( though not the embarrassing ones as they might mention those at inappropriate moments) is a fun and easy way to engage kids of all ages.

Choose appropriate accommodations

If your child is noise sensitive, resist the temptation to stay in jam -packed homes of relatives hosting multiple visiting family members and try to find one who can offer you a spare bedroom and quieter environment.
A better solution if you can afford it is to stay at a nearby hotel where you and your family can relax and get away from all the excitement.

Recognize limitations

You should scrutinize the reunion itinerary and find ways to adapt it to your child’s schedule and ability.
Sometimes it is better to have your child skip events you think they won’t be able to handle than deal with public meltdowns when they are exhausted for the day or experiencing sensory overload.

Get additional help

Don’t be embarrassed about asking other family members, friends or even hiring someone to help with your child while you are attending events so you too, can have a good time.

Promote  family bonding

Invite one or two favorite family members to join you on a daily fun outing to a park, movie theater or even a fast-food joint to help your child get to know them better and eventually feel more comfortable during family gatherings.

Bring  your entertainment

Pack toys, games, and electronics that can occupy your child not only on the way to the reunion but during some of the events. If you decide to bring electronic devices, consider investing in an extra recharge cord and an extended life battery in case you forget to recharge the tablet overnight or lose the cable.

 

Clarify  your food options

If your child is a picky eater or on a special diet, make sure you know what the food options are ahead of time and prepare accordingly. In the event lunch or dinner is planned at a family member’s home; let the host know what your child’s allergies and dislikes are.
If restaurant dining is planned-call the venue ahead or check their menu online to find out what dishes would be suitable for your kid.

Arrive a few days ahead

Start your vacation earlier and arrive at the destination, at least, a day even two ahead as many people with autism need extra time to ‘settle in’ and get accustomed to new surroundings.

Forget the dress code

Forcing your kid to wear formal clothes or the customary reunion T-shirt for several hours just to take that family portrait might sound good in theory but might easily trigger behavioral problems in reality.
If your kid suffers from sensory issues letting them wear what they find most comfortable even if it somewhat torn or stained might be the wise way to go.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

Remember nothing’s perfect so no matter how much you’ll plan small incidents might still happen -do your best to relax and enjoy this is a special time with your extended family.

Have you taken your child with autism to a family reunion? Share your story and

Share your story and tips.

 

 

Lima’s Magic Water Circuit

Lima’s Magic Water Circuit, located in the Parque de la Reserva, a historic 19-acre city park is registered as the world’s largest water fountain complex in the Guinness Book of World Records.
The interactive aspect of the park’s fountains provides hours of fun for kids and many adults while its exposition tunnel murals teach visitors about Lima’s water sources and conservation efforts.

We were debating whether to visit the park since we had seen other fountain shows and felt this one might be similar. However, our hotel concierge insisted it is one of Lima’s top five attractions, so we decided to give it a try.
Against all odds, we all ended up enjoying the park more than we thought.
Not only could the unique laser show rival any Disney production but walking through the water jets made us return to our childhood for the two hours we were there.

Lima’s Magic Water Circuit

By the end of the evening we even voted our personal favorites:

Most Interactive

The Maze of Dreams( Laberinto Del Ensueño) with its unpredictable vertical fountains shooting sideways or upwards at any given time while you try to make it to the ‘safe’ dry center, this fountain is THE place for those seeking to get seriously wet.

Most  engaging

The Fantasy Fountain (Fuente de la Fantasía) Light and Sound show schedule is Wednesday-Sunday at 7:15 PM, 8:15 PM and 9:30 PM. You might want to arrive on the early side to save a spot since it can get somewhat crowded.

Lima’s Magic Water Circuit

Most romantic

The Tunnel of Surprises Fountain (Túnel de las Sorpresas)  is comprised of a  series of water arches that form a  38-yard long tunnel you can walk through without getting wet.

Most sensory

Walk-in Dome (Cúpula Visitable) sports overlapping jets that create continuous water arch visitors can walk under without getting wet unless they touch and disturb the flow.

Lima’s Magic Water Circuit

Most Interesting

The Harmony Fountain (Fuente de la Armonía) is an orange pyramid shaped fountain whose water jet sides make it look like a continuous structure.

Most colorful

The Rainbow Fountain (Fuente Del Arco Iris) is a series of colored-lit fountains that create a wall of color when viewed from a distance.
Lima’s Magic Water Circuit

Most famous

The Magic Fountain (Fuente Mágica) is one of the park’s highlight with its mention in the Guinness Book of records.The best spot to see its full vertical jet of 87 yards is from the Walk-in Dome area.

The cute factor

The Tangüis Fountain (Fuente Tangüis) is a mini garden with several flower shaped fountains created as a tribute to  Fermín Tangüis, an agriculturist who helped save Peru’s cotton industry in the 19th century.

Lima’s Magic Water Circuit

Autism travel tips:

Consider bringing a poncho, anti-slip shoes and even a change of clothes if your child wishes to run around in the fountains.

For the kids who don’t want to participate in water activities closed shoes are strongly advised as the ground is uneven at times and tricky to navigate in the darkness.

If your child is temperature sensitive, you might want to pack a jacket since the area can get cold at night, especially in winter.

Noise cancelling headphones can be a good option for kids who are noise-sensitive when attending the laser show and the free concerts given on weekends.

Lima’s Magic Water Circuit

 

Circuito Magico del Agua

Entrance  Fee I: S/.4

Opening Hours : Wednesday to Sunday (and holidays) from 3:00 pm to 10:30 pm

Location: Parque de la Reserva (between Av. Paseo de la Republica and Av. Arequipa)

Getting  there
A taxi from Miraflores to the Magic Water Circuit costs about S/.7
Minibuses run up and down Av. Arequipa, for S/.1
Lima Metropolitano bus to the Estadio  Nacional stop, S/.1


I’m participating in the IGTRAVELTHURSDAY blog link-up. Today, I’m linking to @LUXURYTRAVELMOM for inspiration and new travel tips.

Q&A with Dr Stephen Mark Shore- Autism Advocate


Dr. Stephen Mark Shore was a typically developing child until around 18 months old, when he was, in his words,“ hit with the autism bomb”.
He became nonverbal, but due to the early intervention by his parents, his speech ability began to return at the age of four.
Refuting the doctors recommendations for institutionalization, his parents continued their intervention to help their son in his schooling and life.
Nowadays, Stephen is an internationally renowned author, an Autism and Asperger Syndrome advocate, and a professor of Special Education at Adelphi University.
I recently had the honor of interviewing Dr. Shore about his travel experiences.

 

Q&A with Dr Stephen Mark Shore- Autism Advocate and Author japan

How do you prepare for a trip to a place you have never been before?

I get my trip arrangements made well in advance, and I try, as much as possible, to plan ahead to avoid extra layers of hassle that might arise.Since most of my travels are business related (conferences and speaking engagements), I will ask the organizers for someone to pick me at the airport and drive me to the hotel, so I don’t get lost. Sometimes you need to advocate for yourself and ask for that extra help.

For example, when I went to Paris to speak at a conference, the organizers suggested I take the subway. I knew it would was noisy and a sensory overload. Additionally, since I did not know French, there was a high probability of getting lost.Therefore, I requested my hosts to provide transportation (or, at least, send someone to go with me on the subway if need to be).

Staying within my comfort zone is important to me, so I try to prepare for transitions by researching visual aids, like videos, on the Internet. I found that especially important for countries where the food and atmosphere are so odoriferous and different like Thailand or India.

Most of all, I know my limitations, and if I do need help I will ask for it!

What are your preferred methods of transportation?

I’ve tried many different types of transportation depending on where I’m going. Trains are excellent as they provide more space and legroom. They don’t require any seat belts, and there is no restriction on when you can get up and stretch, which is always a major plus for me.

I do drive occasionally, but never internationally. Unfortunately, renting a car while you travel comes with two additional layers of uncertainty –when you rent the car as well as when you return it.There is also added unpredictability with road conditions where the car can break down, and that you can get still lost even with a GPS system.
I also have to say I do like cruises as an option since, in addition to providing comfortable transportation, there are additional fun activities to help occupy your time while you travel.

Q&A with Dr Stephen Mark Shore- Autism Advocate and Author parrots

 What is your packing philosophy – over pack or under pack?

I would call myself an under packer.  I like traveling light with only carry-on. I don’t want to deal with lost luggage or have to wait extra time around the conveyor belt especially after long haul flights. I agree to travel with carry-on luggage does have its limitations, so I have my “bag of tricks” for how to bring on stuff I need and somewhat bypass weight limitations.

My two favorite tricks are putting items I need for my flight (like a jacket, book, drink, and snack) in a separate plastic bag and wearing a Scottevest that has multiple pockets to carry electronics and extra stuff. Sometimes I take an extra backpack that I can later pack in my carry-on. I’ve also learned to leave certain things like heavy shoes at home and take lighter substitutes like sandals most of the time.

What is the one electronic device you refuse to travel without?

I travel with multiple electronics, all of which I use. Nowadays I use an iPhone since it can multitask, and a laptop for my work.

The one place on a plane you won’t sit in?

I avoid the very back next to the toilets, where it smells and passengers either leans on your seat or bump into you while waiting their turn.

What is your favorite pastime on the plane?

I don’t have a favorite pastime per se. I do the usual mix of reading working and watching movies.

Q&A with Dr Stephen Mark Shore- Autism Advocate and Author australia

 

Which hotel amenities do you look for when making your lodging arrangement?

There are distinct features I always look for. A non-smoking room is important, as, outside the U.S., many properties still permit rooms smoking. Abroad, that sometimes means they just aired the room after the previous occupant smoked in there. Noise can also be an issue – anything from elevators, a wall unit A/C or even a refrigerator can bother may be people with autism, so noise proof walls are a plus.As a frequent traveler, I also appreciate properties that offer chemical free rooms, decent water pressure, and soft bedding.

If money was no object, what would be your top criteria for selecting a hotel at a destination?

It would depend on if I were looking for a boutique or chain hotel. I would get one close to the attractions or landmarks. Another feature I look for is for hotels to be close to outside food venues, so you don’t depend on pricey hotel restaurants or cabs to go anywhere.

Many hotel chains are now trying to cater to travelers with autism. What would be your tips to make their properties more “autism friendly”?

One of the most overlooked things is the cleaning process, which usually involves powerful chemicals. An autistic room should be cleaned with chemical-free products to minimize allergies, and have soft bedding, noise proof walls, and is away from the elevators.Many travelers with autism now use iPads and other electronic devices, so several outlets in the room are useful.

How has traveling made a difference in your life?

 It made me more aware of cultural differences. I try to promote autism awareness and get in contact with different autism organizations worldwide wherever I go.
One of the things I like to do, especially on Friday night is look up the local Habad House in the various countries and attend their Friday night services. That gives me a sense of familiarity and belonging to the community.

Q&A with Dr Stephen Mark Shore- Autism Advocate and Author chabad

 Why would you recommend traveling with a child on the autism spectrum in spite the challenges?

 I think it is important for kids with autism to be exposed to as many different situations as possible, so travel is an important tool Parents can use to educate their children. However, I would like to advise them to plan their trips in detail and allow adequate transition periods between activities to avoid sensory overloads and possible meltdowns.

 

 

 

Travel Memories of a Teen with Autism

Guest Post by Ryan Comins

One of my most memorable family vacations took place during the summer of 1997.  My dad had just graduated from college with a bachelor degree, so he treated my mom, my brother, and I with a two week trip out west.
We first drove out to my grandfather’s house in Illinois.
After that, we went on to Iowa, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, Minnesota, and Wisconsin before taking a ferry to Lake Michigan and driving back home.
We saw many sites that I will never forget: the Badlands in South Dakota, Mount Rushmore, Old Faithful, and many more fond memories.

Travel Memories of a Teen with Autism VOLCANO
While driving along a highway in Wyoming, we hit a deer as it slammed into the side of our car, sending the right side mirror sailing into a corn field. Being on the autism spectrum with a fascination for animals, I was more preoccupied with whether the deer had been hurt than by the near miss we had just experienced.
Through some twist of fate, the people driving behind us stopped to see if we were alright. It turned out that they lived in the same town we did. Here we were in the middle of Wyoming talking with some people who lived across town from us in Michigan.

Travel Memories of a Teen with Autism MOUNTAINS
The sky turned black while we were in a hotel in Minnesota as a tornado came within five miles of our hotel.
That close call ramped up my anxiety.
Before taking shelter on the part of the hotel, I remember standing outside as my dad called up to a guy on a nearby tower, asking him if he could see a funnel. As far as I can recall, the guy could not.

Travel Memories of a Teen with Autism WATERFALL
Travel Accommodations? I didn’t get any

I never really received any accommodations for my autism spectrum disorder.

The issues that I faced were related to my anxiety, during the tornado for example and my preoccupation with animals, which was shown by my reaction when we hit the deer.

Also, I had a tendency to be in “my little world,” which was why my dad gave me a pep talk before getting out of the car for a picnic in the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming.

He told me that if he said so, we were to go back to the car and leave behind the food. He was worried about a bear coming up to our picnic and didn’t want my brother or me to get hurt.
Thankfully, nothing happened, and we enjoyed our picnic without incident.

Travel Memories of a Teen with Autism HOUSE

My future plans include Travel!

Someday in the future, I would like to travel out West again by myself or with a close friend.
This time, I have a different objective in mind.
For the past eight years, I have been writing my fantasy series.  I would like to experience the environments I saw when I was younger to gain story inspiration.
I would like to watch the sun rise over the mountains and note the chill that may or may not be present in the air.  I would also like to witness the sights, sounds, smells, and the feel of the air, the presence of insects, and all sorts of things that would make my writing all the more detailed, colorful and vivid.  I plan to take this trip in the next five years or so.

Travel Memories of a Teen with Autism LAKE
Ryan is a writer, podcast host, and autism advocate.  He was diagnosed with autism at age 12 and now at 25, he.is doing well and committed to using his writing skills to help others to understand autism better.

 

 

Helping Hotels Become Autism Friendly

A Twitter friend asked me the other day, whether I knew if a particular hotel in London was ‘autism friendly.’
We had never stayed at this specific property, so I suggested she contacted the hotel directly and asked whether it could provide the accommodations she needed. I mentioned that based on our decade of travel that would be the best way to ensure a  stress-free stay.

But then it dawned on me–why are parents even struggling with these extra steps?
In today’s world with such a surge in the number of autism families ,hotels don’t need to wait to be asked by parents but should strive to become much more autism-friendly on their own.
In fact, a move like that by the leading chains is bound to lead to increased revenue and return business as well as revolutionize  the way the hospitality industry approaches the entire  autism community.

And, in most cases; becoming autism-friendly wouldn’t even involve spending money on remodeling rooms or gadgets but tweaking existing services in five simple steps.

 Helping hotels become Autism Friendly bed



Have special needs agents 

One of the reasons we love staying on Marriott’s properties is the fact the chain has designated special needs’ desk that helps travelers with specific accommodations,
It provides patrons with a one-stop solution eliminating the tedious job of repeating your list of accommodations to different staff members and can prove extremely useful for complex overseas itineraries that involve multiple stays in several countries.

Though this might not be a viable solution for the smaller hotels, it is a valuable marketing concept that medium to large hotel chains should consider copying.


Add website assistance

A feature I often use and wholeheartedly recommend is an online special request box ( like the one available on Priority Club’s website when booking online) where I can quickly mention my feather allergy and need for quiet and connecting rooms at booking.

Furthermore, it might be beneficial for hotels to designate a well trained customer-service person with some knowledge of autism to respond to any additional question via a link on their web page.
Remember: some parents might be more comfortable with sharing the information with one person than reiterating their child’s information to every hotel staff member they meet.

Mark particular rooms as quiet

Hotels are already required to tag some places as wheelchair user accessible to accommodate mobility disabilities so why not mark ‘quiet rooms to help the growing autistic travel community?
All the hotel needs to do is mark rooms that are away from noisy venues like lounges, elevators and vending machines as ‘quiet’ on their website for parents to choose from.In cities with busy traffic; rooms facing interior courtyards should also be recommended. for noise sensitive travelers

Get Staff trained 

Even though many parents don’t share their kids’ diagnosis -their particular needs might still surface in their requests and complaints, so appropriate autism staff training is essential.
Sometimes solutions to an issue are solved by ‘thinking outside the box’.
An example that comes to mind is the staffer at the J W Marriott Berlin hotel that noticed how my son was distraught after being told their restaurant was full, and he couldn’t dine there.

The front desk manager, single-handedly, put two lobby tables together, procured extra chairs and brought our ordered dishes from the restaurant to the lobby area so we could finally dine after arriving at the hotel from our long-haul flight.

Provide additional safety measures

Hotel officials should know that the number one travel concern of parents (especially of younger ones) is that their kids might open the room door and wander off unattended.
Some rooms may face a double whammy with a front as well as a balcony door accessible for children to open.
By providing inexpensive additional locks (placed higher up than usual) or mini dual contact noise sounding alarms on the room doors, hotels might not only be able to avoid a potential safety problem but provide parents with much-needed peace of mind.

Have you stayed at a hotel with your autistic child and received special accommodations -share  your experience with us.

 

 

Visiting Cabo San Lucas’ El Arco With Autistic Kids

 Cabo San Lucas is one of the best destinations when cruising the Mexican Rivera., made famous back in the 1980’s by the popular  Love Boat TV series.
For first time families traveling with kids that aren’t strong swimmers and can’t snorkel, a glass bottom boat tour to the iconic El Arco’s (Land’s End ) where the Sea of Cortez meets the Pacific Ocean are a good choice.

Since weather can be stormy or windy at different times of the year, it might be best to book a tour the very day the ship docks in port instead of ahead of time..

Land’s End

Travelers will see multiple vendors offering the glass boat tours upon arrival at the pier. Since the cruise price isn’t fixed and can be ‘negotiated’ you can get a better and cheaper deal if you are part of a larger group.
For families seeking an interactive experience check out the Buccaneer Queen pirate ship offering day and sunset trips that include a buffet style meal and unlimited drinks.

During the short cruise, you can enjoy spectacular rock formations some home to colonies of sea lions and pelicans that feed on the local fish without even getting off the boat. If you chose to get off the boat, you could check out the area’s famous beach called Lovers’ Beach with its calmer waves that are best suited for families and younger kids.Those seeking adventure can try ‘Divorce Beach’, yes, that’s what the locals nicknamed it; with rougher waters and better snorkeling opportunities. Needless to mention that families with younger kids can just opt to play in the sand or watch the marine wildlife.

Autism travel  tips

As the boat sails into the open sea, the water waves often  get rough, so if you or your kid are prone to sea sickness, you may want to take some Dramamine pills or patches before boarding.Many of the boats are open to the elements so have your kids sit on the inside part away from the water to avoid them from falling into the water or getting wet.If your kid is temperature sensitive look to book a boat that is partially covered and provides some sun shade. It would be useful to bring a  one dollar packable poncho along to cover him /her from the water splashing on them when the boat speeds up if they are sitting in an open vessel.
There aren’t many places to buy any food items particularly for those with dietary restrictions so bring along snacks, bottled water, and sunscreen in a day bag from the cruise ship.
Closed toe shoes such as Crocs or water shoes are highly recommended for getting on and off the boat where there are slippery floors to negotiate.
In case, your family members are planning to swim or snorkel consider purchasing life jackets and bringing them along since the beaches authorities do not employ lifeguards.
Remember to warn your kids against climbing the steep rocks since they can get seriously injured.


Have you visited Cabo San Lucas with your family; if so what are your tips?

 

Sea-trekking in the Cayman Islands

Guest post by Jeffrey Francus

             Sea-trekking in the Cayman Islands masks

       

 So what’s the scoop?

The frigid water was a sharp contrast to the balmy weather of the Caymans, I thought, stepping into the seas. Soon after plunging, a white, bulky helmet was thrust upon me, necessary apparel to breathe on the ocean floor. At that point, I had already become used to the cold water and wondered how much the white breathing helmet would weigh—the guide had told us that it was impossibly heavy on land—when I reached the sandy beach below.

Sea-trekking in the Cayman Islands man

“When you go down the ladder and into the water, it’ll start feeling lighter,” one of the guides assured me; I smiled nervously. Even if I had something, the helmet prevented any sound (like my voice) from being heard. As I descended the ladder, I saw the cloudless blue sky being replaced by the crystalline waters of the Caribbean ocean. The helmet presented no issue, but, as the guide had promised; my ears were popping.

Sea-trekking in the Cayman Islands fish

 

Scary but there’s a helping hand!

My discomfort must have been quite visible, as the second operator who was guiding me down the ladder motioned me to swallow and keep my jaws apart (to minimize building pressure). The ladder had ten steps, each foot and a half lower than the previous, and I was still on step one.

Sea-trekking in the Cayman Islands shorts

I continued down slowly but surely, finally reaching the halfway point, a crossroad—should I proceed into the unknown, or return to the safety of the boat? As I got deeper and deeper into the water, the popping intensified, and my rapid heartbeat and panicked demeanor did not help either. How could twenty feet feel so deep? Every impulse said to turn back, yet the allure of sea life up close made me persevere.Sea-trekking in the Cayman Islands group

Wow-corals!!

To quell my anxieties, I reminded myself that no known person has yet died from this—so far, though—but then, I see my parents and brother waiting impatiently on the sea bottom. So what’s it going to be? Throwing away my fear, I take another step, and feel the sandy floor of the sea. My jaw dropped and eyes opened: I was under the sea, watching fish float by in the waving coral!

The color, the light, the brightness, and intensity of it all! Disregarding safety and all, I rushed off the ladder and joined up with the group. Schools of fish of all colors floated nonchalantly by, grazing the coral and the open palms of group members holding food for them. The colors of the ocean floor and the life frolicking beneath the sea took my breath away ( not literally).Sea-trekking in the Cayman Islands swimming

My family’s  travels have exposed my brother and me to different cultures, tastes, sounds, and places. Yet, the Grand Caymans adventure holds importance because, as my travels as a young child to Yosemite, the Sea Trek endeavor this past April introduced us to the beauty of nature in the most far off of places.

While I was accustomed to beautiful buildings and artwork in cities, nature had always represented something to be avoided, because of my sensory integration disorder. I still recall the days when I would scream at the sight of sand or the potential touch of water, so to walk on the ocean floor for me was to accomplish the incredible.Besides, the sea trek adventure helped me combat one of my worst fears—fear of the unknown—and enjoy my time in the water, far out of my comfort zone.

Over the years, we’ve visited many places and seen many things, but this one qualifies as both the most educational and inspirational of them all. .Sea-trekking in the Cayman Islands yoga

So, after reading my story would you like to go sea-trekking with me next time I go?

 

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