Flying with Autism on CRJ -700 Planes

I remember a decade ago when we first started traveling extensively how squeamish I was about flying to Savannah airport in a CRJ 700 plane. In my defense, I had flown earlier that year in a 25- seater plane from Vancouver to Seattle during a storm, which had traumatized me.

To my surprise, the flight ended up as one of the calmest and most uneventful one we had.
The service was impeccable ( SkyWest usually is), and the seats were more comfortable than most of the larger planes we’ve flown in.
Furthermore, we ended up chatting pleasantly with one another, which almost never happens with my teen sons.

 

 

Tips for Flying with Autism on CRJ -700 Planes plane

Since then we’ve flown several times on these planes (widely used to fly between smaller airports), and I can say we’ve pretty much gotten used to them.
With that said, we did encounter minor challenges that other families with autism should be aware of before booking their next flight this particular aircraft.

 

Tips for Flying with Autism on CRJ -700 Planes inside
The size

The CRJ 700  aircraft is small (17 rows) and divided into rows of two so a family of four can either sit in the same row across from each other or book two seats in one row with the other two in the row behind it.
Either way, since the aircraft is so small, you won’t be that far from the rest of your family members.

Tip: If your kid with autism tends to kick the seat in front of them book them a seat in the bulk row or behind you, so they don’t inconvenience fellow travelers.

Tips for Flying with Autism on CRJ -700 Planes seat
Tiny overhead bins

As mentioned before, since this plane is small the overhead bins can’t usually accommodate the 20-inch carry-on suitcases.In the event, your carry-on doesn’t fit you can still give it to handlers at the departure gate (don’t check it in ahead of time) so you can get it back as you exit the aircraft at your destination.

Tip: Consider substituting a backpack (that fits better in the overhead bins) for your carry-on suitcase to pack crucial items like meds and electronics for your special needs kid that you need on a flight.

Tips for Flying with Autism on CRJ -700 Planes overhead bin

Noise!

If your child is noise sensitive book a seat in the front since the CRJ 700 planes are quite noisy in the back.

Tip: stuck with seats in the back? Buy a pair of noise canceling headphones for your child to help tune out the noise.

Tips for Flying with Autism on CRJ -700 Planes window
Temperature Control

Based on our flights I can say there is enough the temperature variance between the front and the back of the aircraft –while the front is cold, sometimes too cold, the back gets stuffy and hot!.

Tip: If your child with autism is temperature sensitive it is easier to book seats in the front and bring a blanket or jacket rather than struggle to stay cool in the back.

Tips for Flying with Autism on CRJ -700 Planes aisle

No entertainment

Surprisingly enough, these planes come without personal screens, so you need to bring at least one preferably two electronic devices to occupy your kid.

Tip: Packing an extra battery in your handbag or carry-on is a good idea since the aircraft doesn’t have any outlets to recharge.

Tips for Flying with Autism on CRJ -700 Planes restroom
Bathroom

Most of the planes we’ve flown on so far featured one single tiny bathroom for all passengers so there might be a queue to use it after takeoff and meals.

Tip: Teach your kid to think ahead and use the airport restroom before boarding to avoid the lines.

Have you flown on a CRJ 700 aircraft with your special needs child what was your experience?

What was your experience?

 

Touring the City of David, Jerusalem

                                                               Guest post by Darya Short

The City of David, considered by many to be the birthplace of the holy city of Jerusalem, is an archeological park detailing the city’s historical past.
Families can tour ancient houses and the watch towers used to defend the water well during numerous enemy sieges as well as a 533-meter long tunnel carved through solid rock that connects the city to the pools of Shiloh.

 

Getting  there

From the Central Bus Station in Jerusalem, visitors can take the 1, 1A, 2 and 38 Egged buses to the Western Wall.The closest parking to the Tunnel Tour is in the Karta Western Wall parking lot. Most of the parking in and near the Old City requires a fee.
We came from out of town by car and parked underground in Jerusalem’s Mamilla Mall. We walked through the outdoor promenade of the Mall which might be a future shopping outing one day!
Then, we went past the King David Citadel, followed the signs to the Western Wall, known as The Kotel in Hebrew, all the way to the Tunnel tours on the Northern side.

Touring the City of David, Jerusalem kotel

 

When to go

The only way to go on this tour is by making reservations ahead of time through the Western Wall Generation Centre.
In our experience, it is extremely busy regardless of the time of day or week, so there is no advantage to booking an early in the morning versus a late in the afternoon tour.
When we arrived, we saw that there were groups scheduled for every 10 minutes and each group was full.We found that they were punctual and organized so make sure you arrive before your scheduled time slot to avoid a chance of missing your tour.

The tour runs Sunday through Thursday from 7 AM to 8 PM. On Fridays and on the eve of the celebration Biblical festivals, they are shorter from 7 AM to midday.On Shabbat (Saturday) and the somber Biblical festivals as well as the day before Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, and on Tisha B’av – the day the Jewish Temple was destroyed, the venue is closed.

During the week-long holidays like The Feast of Tabernacles, Chanukah and Passover, except for the first and last days of these festivals, the site is open as usual.

Make sure to choose the language you want your tour to be conducted in, at booking since it is impossible to switch later.
The tours are in English and Hebrew but in August, there are also tours in French.  Touring the City of David, Jerusalem citadel

The  Tour

We began our tour by going underground down some stone stairs.  Without lights, it would be pitch dark, but it was well lit and smelled like a cave which added to the whole experience.

All the low arches were padded, so we felt safe and secure. We were shown into a room where our guide gave us a brief overview with a visual display condensing a few thousand years of history in fifteen minutes. It was incredibly fascinating!

As it was a bit disorientating being underground, it was good to be shown where we were and in which direction we were going to be walking. Bear in mind that what you see on the outside is nothing like what you experience inside!

The whole tour lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes, and we went through eons of time with history, archeology, geography thrown in; enthralled with everything we heard and saw.

We passed narrow passages, high archways and large rooms that were used to hold drinking water for the city’s population.  The guide pointed out how every part of the tunnel looked different, because of the various functions each part fulfilled over the different centuries. Some ceilings even had chimneys and trap doors in places which added to the mystery and fun. On the way, our son even noticed a few stalactites clinging to the ceiling rock that were beautiful.

Much care has been done to make sure that tourists are safe, so there are railings along the whole route of the tour, which includes the stone stairs visitors use to climb and down. Our guide did an excellent job of warning our group that steps were uneven in places and that we should all be careful; a fact we thought was great especially for special needs travelers. We all liked the individual glass panels on the ground in several places where guests could see deep down all the way to the bedrock.

The tour ended in the section of the Wall directly under the Muslim Quarter of the Old City.We climbed the stairs and came into the market area which is famous for dining as well as bargain shopping. We wandered into the Armenian Quarter and Jewish Quarter before making our way back to our car.
Overall, we had a fantastic day and our child with sensory needs mentioned how he didn’t feel claustrophobic and asked when we could come back which made us all very happy.

Touring the City of David, Jerusalem wells

 

 

Autism Travel Tips

  • Jerusalem is a very densely populated city with over 3 million tourists visiting each year.Respecting personal space doesn’t always get a chance to feature. There are ongoing archeological excavations, drilling and building all over the city, including underground, so there is a higher decibel of noise.  This adds to the incredible atmosphere that is Jerusalem but can be hard for a traveler with noise sensitivities. Make sure you pack noise canceling headphones if needed
  • The stairs are uneven and slippery when wet.Wear non-slip, comfortable walking shoes when you visit the Old City of Jerusalem
  • The Old City with its narrow streets and alleys can be quite confusing, so I recommend having a map of the Old City to avoid getting lost.
  • Depending on the time of year, one can make this into a day trip. No matter how long you are planning to stay for, ensure that you have drinking water with you at all times.

 

 

Darya  Short lives in Jaffa, one of the oldest still-functioning port cities of the world.  Her husband, Antony, is the Headmaster of Tabeetha School, established in 1863.  Together with their two teenaged children, one of whom has Sensory Integration issues, they try to see as much of the Israeli countryside as possible, visiting National Parks, museums, and historical sites.  

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 Erin Wilson of QR CODE ID

Ask any parent and they will tell you that losing their child in a crowd is probably one of their biggest fears.
It can happen in an instant when you take your eyes off your child: in an airport, theme park even the local market.

When my kids were younger, I admit I was one of those moms writing my cell number with a sharpie on my kids’ arms before heading out almost anywhere. Over the years, I’ve met many parents to kids with autism( some non-verbal )who have expressed their concern not only for their children wandering off unsupervised but of their child’s ability to ask for help once they feel lost.
Enter the QR Code ID!
Created by Erin Wilson mother to a son with autism, the QR Code ID is a bar code that can be a applied to any item kids wear and can be easily scanned to obtain immediate medical and personal information when needed.

Q&A with Erin Wilson of QR CODE ID hill top

Photo credit: Erin Wilson

 

 

What is QR Code ID?

QR Code ID provides information for those who are unable to communicate during critical moments.
It can be a lifesaver for people with Autism, Down Syndrome, Dementia and Alzheimer’s who may wander and not be able to ask for help.
It is also a useful tool for law enforcement and first responders in that it helps not only identify the person but understand the person’s behaviors and needs better.
The QR code information can either be scanned with a smartphone or accessed by manually entering a unique number associated with each profile on QR code’s website. Each profile contains emergency contact and behavioral information. This information can also be changed in real time, and parents have the capability to post messages like “We are on Main street looking for him-Please take him to the security gate.” or “My asthma inhaler is in the front pocket of my purse.” when needed.

What made you come up with the idea?

It started on a lunch date with my husband and I brainstorming about different options on the market that could be helpful for him if and when he ever got lost.
Our son Jay has moderate – severe autism with very limited language ability and has gotten lost before.
And then it dawned on me – we needed a way to relay his information that will always be with him.
That’s how I  first thought of using a QR code.
It’s funny, I had seen codes many times on grocery products before but never thought of using one to store personal information.
My husband, Bruce and I have been developing the concept since April 2012 and had a patent pending.
It’s true been a labor of love, a way for us to help families like ours first, and a business second.

Q&A with Erin Wilson of QR CODE ID boy

Photo credit: Erin Wilson

What can QR code ID be printed on?

Some people have particular tactile concerns; others have items they carry with them, so we’re always looking for ways to address individual preferences.
Our company offers a line of clothing that was designed by special -needs’ artists button down shirts, polos, and T-shirts as well as hoodies.
For people preferring to use their clothing, we have the options printing the code bar on vinyl heat transfers.
Also, these codes can also be put on pins, clips, business cards, backpacks even suitcases.
We are currently testing temporary tattoos and hope to start offering that as an option soon too.

Is it available in other countries and other languages?

We’ve received many calls from places like Australia and the UK, so we’re working hard to make the site compatible on a global scale and hope to be offering our product in other languages shortly.

Q&A with Erin Wilson of QR CODE ID fair

Photo credit: Erin Wilson

 

How does the code work and how user-friendly is it?

Our product is extremely user-friendly for both families and first responders.
All caregivers need to do is set up the person’s profile and keep the information current.
Each membership also has a password-protected secure site where relevant information such as diagnosis, allergies and medications can be stored and retrieved in an emergency.
I need to emphasize the importance for the person with the disability to wear their code at all times, which is why we have created so many product options.
QR is helpful for first responders since the subscriber’s profile page can be either scanned on any smartphone or tablet or manually entered on the website with a unique code.

 

How can it help traveling families?

When a family is traveling, they are out more than they may normally be, and in unfamiliar surroundings, which can present more opportunities for a person to become disoriented and lost.
We have a friend whose Dad was visiting from out of town. They went to the mall and lost Dad coming out of the bathroom.They think he turned the wrong way coming out of the restroom, and he was lost for several long hours.
It’s so stressful for the families, for both the person who is lost and individuals who are looking for them.Our hope is that QR code ID can turn those hours of stress and worry into a quick and happy reunion.

 

Q&A with Erin Wilson of QR CODE ID charactrs

Photo credit: Erin Wilson

 

Erin Wilson used to be a carefree world traveler backpack style on a shoestring budget.
These days she is married to super involved husband Bruce and Mom to Grace and Jay.
Also, advocate, scheduler, caregiver and driver for 11-year-old son Jay who has moderate to severe Autism.  He has issues with waiting in lines and eating at sit down restaurants.
They try their best to have him be part of the community and enjoy travel while not embarrassing sister too much.  They have been able to do a couple of Vegas trips and many day trips around southern California.

 

 

 

Q&A with Graeme Phillips Train Travel Aficionado

 

How do you plan a trip?

I research the places I want to travel to and see how accessible they regard transportation.
If I still want to go, I  create my itinerary, book the trips and then my lodgings.

Do you travel alone or with a group?

I travel solo unless there is someone who shares my interest in the places I wish to visit and what I want to do there, which does not happen often.

Q&A with Graeme Alexander Phillips Train Travel Aficionado roof

Photo Credit: Graeme Phillips

What is your favorite form of lodging?

I prefer Bed and Breakfast or half-board lodging -depending on the price and availability in this particular region.

Where do you usually travel to?

Mainly cities as I  don’t like renting a car and feeling bound to use it because “the meter is running.”

Q&A with Graeme Alexander Phillips Train Travel Aficionado ocean

Photo Credit: Graeme Phillips

Do you ask for any particular accommodations in airports/lodging?

No, nothing in particular.I plan ahead and make sure I have what I need with me.

Do you join guided tours or venture on your own?

I  prefer to make my timetable and wander on my own.I might consider taking a  guided tour if it is offered at a reasonable price though in some instances like hot weather group tours with fixed itineraries would make concentrating difficult.

 

Q&A with Graeme Alexander Phillips Train Travel Aficionado bridge

Photo Credit: Graeme Phillips

Favorite place you’ve been so far?

Seville, Spain! That’s why I’ve bought a flat there. My close second would be Cartagena de Indias.

What place you would never go back to?

I can’t  think of anywhere.I once spent a month in Syria, and  I guess it wouldn’t be an excellent idea to visit at present.

 

Q&A with Graeme Alexander Phillips Train Travel Aficionado lights

photo Credit: Graeme Phillips

Personal Travel pet peeve?

I’d have to say that would be assistants who cannot answer questions unless the answer comes from a list of pre-memorized responses.

This happened a lot in Malaysia when I asked about books about trains: the shop assistants looked pained when I asked questions about this, as it was outside their usual repertoire of questions.
Another pet peeve is transportation to the airport being late.
Recently had an experience where I traveled by bus to a city center, where I was catching an onward coach, but my flight was delayed, and it took forever to get to the city center’s coach station in rush-hour traffic, making me about hour-and-a-half late for the bus. Luckily, I was put on the next one.

 

Q&A with Graeme Alexander Phillips Train Travel Aficionado lake

Photo Credit: Graeme Phillips

Favorite method of transportation while traveling and why?.

Trains!

Traveling by train in comparison to the bus is a good idea since trains don’t interact with rush-hour traffic except at level crossings.
I think that choosing transportation modes with a high degree of predictability are better for people with autism, particularly if they are traveling alone.
I will often plan holidays in countries with extensive networks like Spain and China just to experience their high-speed trains. I like Spain’s AVE service that promises on the Madrid-Seville line that if the train is more than 5 minutes late, you get all of your money back.

 

Q&A with Graeme Alexander Phillips Train Travel Aficionado station

Photo Credit GraemePhillips

The German and Swiss rail systems with their reliable timetables provide sound traveling choices for people on the autistic spectrum, and I like the fact that most of the times, the platforms the trains leave from are announced well in advance.
The Swiss railway system prides itself on punctuality and interconnectivity.
As far as I know, it was among the first to adopt the clock face timetabling method (trains departing at the same number of minutes past the hour) and to produce a timetable map of the country.

The system is designed so that it is easy to interchange, with many major cities having trains arrive five minutes before the hour and departing five minutes after the time. The numbers closest to the station show how many minutes past the hour a train arrives at a station and the number on the other side slightly further away shows how many minutes past the hour the train leaves the station.
Would I trade the Swiss system for the British system?
Probably not, because the punctuality of the Swiss seems to be achieved by leaving extremely generous allowances. The system of timing nodes around the half and whole hours can be fairly wasteful and reduces the number of destinations reachable within a day’s travel.
Nevertheless, the system is easy to navigate when you are in a country you don’t know, and you don’t want to struggle to learn a new regime.

Q&A with Graeme Alexander Phillips Train Travel Aficionado train

Photo Credit: Graeme Phillips

Over the years, I’ve heard some complaints about the appearance of the Chinese metro system, but I don’t personally have a problem with it since for me predictability trumps appearance, especially in a city, I’m not acquainted with.

Though I know a lot about high-speed trains around the world, my real specialty (and day job) involves metro trains.
Metro systems are in many ways my favorite method of getting around, as they offer the best of both worlds- spontaneity and predictability.

Spontaneity in that you can just turn up and, in most systems, a train will arrive in a matter of minutes (generally no need to find out times in advance).

Predictability in that you can look up the location of the station, and you know exactly where you are going, unlike by bus where you might not know where to get off and possibly overshoot your spot.
However, as much as I do like seeing other metro systems, I have to confess I often don’t bother using the systems if the distances are short enough to walk since as a tourist I want to get to explore the city as much as possible.

Q&A with Graeme Alexander Phillips Train Travel Aficionado rainbow

Photo Credit: Graeme Phillips

Graeme lives in the United Kingdom and works in the railway industry. In his spare time, he enjoys participating in his Reformed Baptist Church, learning foreign languages and finding out about railway systems across the world. To learn more train travel tips, you are invited to join his  ‘Fans of High-Speed Trains’ Facebook group.

 

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.

 

 

Q&A with Savannah L. Breakstone,autism advocate

 

Do you remember your first trip on your own; where did you go? 

I don’t remember my first trip on my “own”, but I do remember my first flight alone. Or rather, I remember being on the first flight on my own.  I think it was to visit my biological father, but I”m not sure. It was, though, within the last 4-5 years.

Is your travel business or pleasure related?

I usually go to do advocacy work or for training or conference. Most of my in-state travels right now are with a group called Self-Advocates United as 1 (SAU1), which is a PA based disability group that focuses on Developmental Disabilities. I go to Harrisburg, do training for other self-advocates across the state (including in the state centers), and attend meetings or training.

Every couple of months I go to Washington D.C. for related advocacy purposes, and I stay with friends.

Travel Challenges of Adults with Autism Q &A with Savannah Logsdon-Breakston CHICAGO

I also get invited to conferences and training across the country from time to time.
Because of my financial situation, I don’t have the money to travel to things that aren’t paid for by someone else or by fundraising.

I’ve gotten to go to Chicago, Denver, Seattle, Kansas City, and Oregon in the past couple of years. This week.I’m  leaving tonight for Dallas, TX, followed by Amherst, MA.

On the Seattle trip, I stayed extra time because of being able to stay with some friends after the summit was over. Because I normally don’t have much time that isn’t used by whatever brings me to a place, it is nice when I go someplace where I can spend a few extra days if there is someone I trust in the area.

 How do you prepare for your trip?

I used to be more detailed with my packing regimen. I had a structured order. Today, though, I’ve traveled enough, so I have a looser order.

I have a list of what I will need, and at this point, I have a version of those things that are ‘stored ‘ in my bags.
Some events might also offer packing lists. If you aren’t sure what to bring, and there is an event organizer, ask what the weather is like, and if there are any needs, you might not anticipate.
Since most of my travel arrangements are made by third parties, I  don’t need to manage my travel budget right now.

When another person is setting things up, they will need to know the logistics of the events are and coordinate your flight schedule accordingly.
They’ll deal with the details of using your correct name as it appears on your approved photo ID, your date of birth or any additional needs you might have.

You should let people know in advance if you require further accommodations  Depending on your method of travel; there are different types of things that they can do to help you have a more accessible trip.

Travel Challenges of Adults with Autism Q &A with Savannah Logsdon-Breakstone PROFILE

Photo credit S. Logsdon-Breakstone

You should also keep your needs in mind to determine what type of transportation you should use.

In the past, I  used to be able to travel any which way, but I now diagnosed with fibromyalgia which makes taking certain types of transportation very painful, especially if I can’t move around or have space to stretch.
Also, I also suffer from car sickness, which means buses aren’t an option for me.

When I can, I get a low scent or “allergy friendly” hotel room, but that is not always an option in budget friendly hotels.
Though this isn’t a big deal for me, I do know that for some people this can make the difference between a meaningful participation in the day’s schedule or sitting in your room for most of the trip.
I  wish more people would avoid heavily scented products when they are travelling, especially on public transportation like planes and trains.
Sensory over-stimulation or extreme allergies, people usually have a good reason to request a ‘scent-free’ environment.

 

When I travel, I like to look up the layouts of the airport, hotels, and other venues so that I avoid unexpected difficulties.
I also work with event organizers or people sponsoring me to make sure I understand where my ground transportation is and how that process works.

Don’t be afraid to ask the people who work for the airlines or trains for help if you need it. I learnt for example that those wearing red caps at Amtrak are there to assist passengers who need assistance.You may or may not have to disclose that you have a disability, but you shouldn’t need to specify beyond what is directly relevant. (Examples: “I have a condition that makes crowded areas very disorienting, so I need help” or “I have a condition that makes long-term movement difficult. What sort of help is available?”

Check and make sure a station or shuttle is accessible for you before booking through there. Even though Amtrak is supposed to be wheelchair accessible, many stations still aren’t updated, especially in rural areas.
Also, if you or someone you are travelling with uses a wheelchair, don’t assume that because something meets ADA standards, it will be accessible- ask or have someone help you ask specific questions.

It can suck to get someplace only to find that your room isn’t convenient for you!

 

Travel Challenges of Adults with Autism Q &A with Savannah Logsdon-Breakstone train


How stressful are airports and security checks for you?

TSA is… Well, I dislike the crowded and the loud part.
But the biggest issue with TSA for me tends to be when I travel through a TSA  checkpoint I haven’t been to before.

I’m OK with the airport I usually fly out of. I haven’t been through Dallas’s yet, so that makes me nervous.
The bigger the airport, the more complicated it seems.
Make sure you follow the packing guidelines that are posted on the TSA website, have a contact person in mind if there are complications, and try to keep calm.

I haven’t been pulled out for more than a pat down when they couldn’t figure out what was causing the metal detector to sound  because I had long skirts or was covering my hair for religious reasons at the time.
They end up having someone wand you, and have you move your loose clothing around so they can tell if you are smuggling contraband.
When I covered my hair, they would pat down my hair and scarf or peak under it. Some places are more respectful than others.

If you DO have a negative TSA experience, write down all the details as soon as possible. There is a place on the national TSA website to turn to report any harassment mismanagement or discriminatory treatment at a particular location.

If they don’t get significant reports, they don’t know that there is a problem.
Some populations will have additional issues, statistically, with TSA than others.
It is a good idea to look up tips from others with similar demographics to get a sense of what to expect, and what/if there’s something you want to do to make it easier.

Travel Challenges of Adults with Autism Q &A with Savannah Logsdon-Breakstoe profile2

Photo credit S.Logsdon-Breakston

What attractions, events or venues do you like to explore?

I usually travel for advocacy events, so I end up spending a lot of time at the conference or other activities that I came for, and rarely have time to do additional travel.
When I do have extra time, it depends on. if the trip falls on a Saturday, I might check whether there is a synagogue I can visit.

I always try to find foods that I might not have access to, back home that are still within my dietary needs and restrictions. Comic book stores are another place I look for when I have downtime.

 

I’ll also look up if there is a Foursquare badge for a city and what I’ll need to visit to get it. I use Foursquare to keep track of when and where I’ve been, as my sense of time isn’t very good.
For someone like me, it also helps me avoid staying in a room by myself.
Even when there isn’t a badge, Foursquare can offer you suggestions for things you might like based on your user history.
When I traveled to New Orleans, I even went to a Jazz bar, though it was deafening.

I enjoyed getting a chance to see such many interesting things and beautiful buildings. When I’m overstimulated, though, my auditory processing is not as good and speaking is harder. I had my netbook with me, and I shared a hotel room with a friend and fellow advocate. She is Deaf, so our access needs kind of met up fairly well for that trip!

If you had the ability where would you travel to?

I  do have a list of states I haven’t had the opportunity to visit yet.
High on the list are California- and Florida which might happen this summer if I can raise the funds for me to attend the Society for Disability Studies conference this summer!
If I had money for fun travel, I’d also like to attend Vidcon in CA, but I don’t see that happening.

Obviously, Hawaii is also on my bucket list, but it’s a lot less likely to get a trip there than somewhere in the continental US.

I’d like to visit Israel someday, of course, as well as spend some time in England. One of my grandfathers was born in England and came to the US when he was just a boy. I have family there as well as in Spain.
My family is vital to me.
I also like history and architecture so touring places like Japan would appeal to me. Hopefully someday since at this point, money makes international travel unlikely.

Travel Challenges of Adults with Autism Q &A with Savannah Logsdon-Breakstone NOLA

 

Savannah Logsdon-Breakstone is an adult with multiple disabilities, including anxiety disorders, fibromyalgia, and hypermobility and autism.Savannah lives in rural northwestern Pennsylvania; manages social media for national disability non-profits, consults on policy at the state and national levels, and works as an advocate for both autism and cross-disability groups.
She is actively involved with ASAN, SAU1, and other organizations focusing on disability issues. She writes for multiple blogs, including Persephone Magazine, as well as her advocacy blog, Cracked Mirror in Shalott. Savannah has had essays and poetry published in anthologies such as Loud Hands and Perspectives 2.

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


Q&A with Naomi Andjelic Bartlett of ‘Autism Cafe’

Q&A with Naomi Andjelic Bartlett of 'Autism Cafe' pirates

photo credit Autism Cafe

 Why do you prefer an all-inclusive versus cruising?

There are a couple of reasons why cruising isn’t an option for our family at the moment:

  • Our son is on the severe end of the spectrum. He does not always sleep through the night and has strong vocal stims. Small cabin rooms with thin walls in close quarters is anxiety provoking for me.
    We enjoy the privacy and space that a large all-inclusive resort offers.  We choose rooms at the back of the resort during off-peak times for a quieter travel experience.
  •  Our past cruise experience showed that mealtimes were a group affair, and we had little control over where and with whom we sat. This will not work with our son’s current dining out skills.
  • We usually make use of in-room dining on our patio for at least one meal a day when we travel, and there is no way we would be comfortable showing our son how a patio door on a cruise ship operates.
  •  While our son has made significant gains regarding his ability to wait, long security lines with a lot of people can still be difficult.  We think the lines to get off and on the ship at various ports might still be troublesome, and we prefer to have the flexibility of hopping in a cab to diffuse and calm our little guy when and if we require it, or walking around the closest town at our leisure.

Q&A with Naomi Andjelic Bartlett of 'Autism Cafe' seaWhat is your favorite all-inclusive?

Our favorite inclusive is Beaches.
We love traveling to Jamaica and Turks and Caicos.
The people are friendly, the weather is beautiful when we travel, and the resorts themselves have a lot of amenities and features to keep our son, who always needs to be on the go, interested.  We like the fact that there are many restaurants to choose from, and the staff has always been helpful and accommodating.

What particular items do you pack for your kids?

I am not a light packer by any stretch.
The items I always pack include specialty food items to support our son’s dietary needs, such as GFCF bread and muffins, CF cheese for grilled cheeses, hot dogs, and peanut butter.
I also bring his favorite treats for reinforcement and desserts.  It goes without saying that we bring books, DVDs, favorite toys, etc. as well as our medical kit given our son is very particular about his first aid treatment.

 

Have you had any bad flight experiences and what have you learned from that?

I have had two particularly memorable negative flight experiences.
The first was on an international red-eye flight. Our son, who had fallen asleep, woke up about half an hour into the flight. He was screaming from being confused, disoriented and above all, tired.
This led to a coughing fit.
I was completely taken with trying to avoid an outright meltdown that I was in no way concerned with the niceties of him covering his mouth while coughing (which is difficult for him in the first place due to motor difficulties), much to the dismay of the passenger sitting behind us.
This passenger happened to be married to a doctor and was concerned about germs.
While trying to focus on my son, I was offered unsolicited medical advice about how my son had croup, and how regardless of his “status” (the word the passenger used when I explained that he had autism), should be covering his mouth to prevent the spread of germs on the airplane.

My son has a lengthy medical file and has been followed by an ENT for a large portion of his life due to a very narrow throat that naturally forms the “steeple” sound heard in croup.  Consequently, I am very well acquainted with when he is sick and when he does and does not require medical attention.  Whenever he coughs, it sounds croupy, with or without a virus or bacterial infection, and in any event, any germs spread on an airplane were by far more hazardous to our son than to the 30-something passenger complaining.

I didn’t bother going into this with the passenger, and I instead chose to ignore him and his wife.
My husband found this more challenging and the men resorted to insults and yelling.
That flight lasted 5 hours, but thankfully our son slept for about 3 of them in the end.
Up to the very last minute as we were walking off the plane, the wife was signaling to me and mouthing that my child needed medical attention.
This incident taught me to ignore and focus on my son without trying to read or care how everyone around me is reacting.

The second incident occurred when a flight attendant refused to allow my son to wear his noise-cancelling headphones during take off to block out the sound.
This was even after I explained that he had autism, which he was non-verbal and would require full assistance in an emergency because he would not be able to interpret any instructions given over the intercom in any event.  I further noted that I had neatly tied any
I further noted that I had neatly tied any loose wires from the headphones that might pose a tripping hazard.
This resulted in a full-blown meltdown in the middle of the aisle for the entire two-hour flight.
I no longer back down on this issue, as you might imagine.

What’s the best tip for eating at restaurants?

I’m not sure if I have a “best” tip.
We do so many things when we eat out to make it a pleasurable and successful experience for all.
From eating when it is not too busy (11:30 for lunch and 5:00 for dinner) to sitting next to a window or outside where possible and bringing popcorn as an appetizer for our son. We have had more success at full-service restaurants than the fast food places because they are quieter.

Have you ever re-arranged a hotel room to make it more comfortable for you and family?Q&A with Naomi Andjelic Bartlett of 'Autism Cafe' slide

Yes, we sometimes have to move a bed against a wall to make sleeping safer  – especially where the beds are high and falling off in the middle of the night poses a hazard.  Also, we have had chairs removed where our son was moving them and climbing them to open patio doors.

What is your most memorable day trip so far?

If we are talking about day trips while on vacation, without a doubt, this is the dolphin experience in Ocho Rios.  Our son was able to watch a dolphin swim up close, touch and even kiss one!
Given his love of the ocean, this was an especially moving experience.
So many other dolphin encounter programs have inflexible rules and would not accommodate our son.
For an authentic local day trip, we love going to Niagara Falls, ON, Canada.  Our son loves Marineland.

 

Where would you go next if money was no object?

Right now I think we have great vacations down south given our son’s abilities.
To try someplace more exotic, not only would the money have to be no object, but we would have to have a reliable Star Trek transporter to get us there!

Naomi is one of three moms who started Autism Cafe, in the hopes of providing information to other autism parents that they wished they had at their fingertips after diagnosis. They provide local and relevant information and resources to autism families.
They have recommended books, tricks of the trade, recommended websites, inspirational poems and sayings, autism facts, and GFCF recipes and resources.

 

 

 

 

Have You Climbed Any Steps Lately?

A favorite pastime of hyperactive kids, like mine, is to chase up hundreds of steps on famous landmarks,  with parents trailing breathlessly behind.
My husband and I always swear we should either bribe them not to do it or leave them to climb on their own but when the moment comes somehow we always end up relenting and joining in. As we stand breathless at the top, we are usually rewarded by a spectacular postcard like the view along with amusing family stories that we share at our holiday table.
In fact, just last month, we were reminiscing about our top five memorable step adventures, to date, and chose the following.


The Eiffel Tower, Paris.

The tower boasts over 1660 steps and is divided into several levels: so visitors can choose how far they wish to climb. The stairs can be used to reach all levels with the exception of the very top that is only accessible by elevator.

Autism Travel Tips
The lines to visit the Parisian icon can be disheartening at times with lines that can stretch several hours so ironically choosing the stairs might be the shorter way to go.Not to mention the benefits of exercising!

Have You Climbed Any Steps Lately? PARIS


Tian-Tan-Po-Lin Buddha, Lantau Island.

One of the highlights of visiting the famous giant  Buddha statue is climbing 268 steps and circling the platform where the Buddha sits.
Travelers with mobility challenges can get there by car as there is a narrow road that ends right at the Statue’s entrance.

Autism Travel Tips
The stairs are divided into sections, so they are comfortable to negotiate as long as they are dry (rain makes them slippery) and fun for kids to count as they climb them.

Have You Climbed Any Steps Lately? LANTAU

Grimaldi Royal Palace,Monaco.

Monaco’s tiny town of Monte Carlo is multi-leveled and built on top of uneven cliffs.So getting from the port to the Grimaldi Royal Palace used to be no easy feat back in the sixties when I was first there. The stairs leading to the palace were not contiguous and were somewhat difficult to find because of confusing signage.Nowadays, travelers can either spring for a cab or use a set of well-coordinated escalators to go all the way up to the top.

Autism Travel Tips
Finding the initial elevator location in the port is tricky so make sure you bookmark a map app on your phone.

Have You Climbed Any Steps Lately? MONACO

Leaning Tower, Pisa.

The  Leaning Tower of Pisa boasts approximately 295 steps with several ‘rest’ areas between the levels where visitors can catch their breath and take the views in. The tower doesn’t have an elevator option, and the old, narrow and somewhat windy stairs can be quite slippery so visitors should consider wearing anti-slip soled shoes and holding the handrail at most times.

Autism Travel  Tips
Be aware there is a bag check before entering and a strict policy of not allowing bags to be carried while climbing.
Also, there is not a place to turn back at any point so if parents think their kids won’t be able to complete the climb that lasts, at least, an hour they might decide against visiting the landmark.

Have You Climbed Any Steps Lately? PISA

The Acropolis, Athens.

The approximately 150 steps separating travelers from the top are not too difficult to negotiate even for warm days. For most  However, should visitors opt against navigating the ancient stairs, there is an alternative route via taxi and elevator at their disposal.

Autism Travel Tips
If your kid is temperature intolerant then climbing them in the summer heat is probably a good idea.Bear in mind the entire complex offers no shade so if you intend on visiting bring a hat, water bottle and mini fan to keep your kid comfortable.

Have You Climbed Any Steps Lately? ATHENS

 

Have you climbed any famous steps with your children?
What was your experience?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pin It on Pinterest