One of the questions many parents contact me, about is how to create a good social travel story to prepare their children with autism for their upcoming vacation.
Unfortunately, most travel venues like airports, airlines, hotels and cruise lines don’t provide one, so it is pretty much up to the parents to create one for their kids.
Since the summer vacation is approaching fast here are some essential points to keep in mind while creating your social travel story for your child with autism.
Keep it Simple
Don’t overwhelm your child with unnecessary details.
The story should provide a rough outline, and you can always provide more information as you go along.
Make it Visual
Most kids like visuals better than text so make sure you download and print pictures of the intended destination from the internet.
Use Different Media Sources
A social story doesn’t have to be solely printed on paper. In today’s day and age you can put together a video playlist on Youtube or Vimeo, bookmark a few blog posts or store some google pictures on your tablet.
Describe it Step by Step
The booklet should have a beginning and an end to the story.Start it with the preparations you and your family will make before your arrival at the destination and continue to describe the steps (in order) till you return home and unpack.
Make Extra Copies
After you put time and effort in creating your story make sure you print, download or store several copies in case the first one gets lost. Some parents like to provide their kids with a laminated copy of the story or even lanyard with cards, so the child can refer to the story during travel.
Depending on your child’s interests you can choose to highlight certain parts of the story and add additional content; like meeting characters in theme parks, souvenir shopping or even visiting the local zoo.
Make it Engaging
If you choose to make a paper copy, you can add additional empty pages at the end for your kid to fill with his or her memories and photos after your vacation.This way the social story can become a cherished album filled with memories for your child to refer to in the years to come.
Here are the different topics to cover depending on the type of travel
Flying and airports
- Packing luggage and a personal bag
- Getting to the airport
- Parking the car
- Checking your luggage
- The TSA check
- Places in the airport including lounges, bathrooms, play areas, stores, and eateries.Reiterate safety rules of sticking with your family members
- The departing gate and getting to it (by foot, train)
- Who to ask for help when getting lost
- The airplane – seats( including mentioning sitting in your seat and being buckled), overhead bins, entertainment /food options.Lavatory
- Deplaning and retrieving the luggage from the carousel
Cruising/All inclusive resorts/Hotels
- Getting to the ship or resort
- Check in process including passport control ,security, getting a room key, safety bracelet fro the younger kids
- Cabin/room description.Appropriate use of the room phone
- Public places like lobby, customer service, elevators and even corridors near your room or cabin
- The muster drill
- Activities you can do in the room/cabin along with what you can’t do like make noise or play ball for example
- Ship or resort activities indoors and outdoors.Make sure you include pools and reiterate safety as many
places don’t provide lifeguards
- Dining options for breakfast,lunch,dinner,snacks,desserts
- Attractions-show venues, clubs, parades, character appearances if you can get pictures or videos
- Getting off the ship or leaving
Ports of call/day trip/theme parks
- Packing clothing /snacks
- Security checks
- Getting there -transportation and entertainment
- What attractions or activities you will be visiting or doing
- Food venues, bathrooms
- Where and what to buy there (if your kid likes souvenirs)
- Who to ask for help (badges or uniforms in a theme park)