Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Holiday Travel with Your Special Needs Child
It's the time of year when everyone and their grandma packs the airports and hits the road on their journey to be with family for the holidays.As you probably know, it's one thing to keep your child entertained at home, but it's something else entirely to embark on a road trip or go through the airport and get on an airplane. There's no need to worry though, I'll give you tips for both.
Hit the road
Road trips can be challenging for families with typical children much less those with autism or other special needs. The thought of Billy and Sally hitting each other in the backseat and stealing toys doesn't exactly bring good cheer. However, you can prepare your children by informing them of exactly what is expected on the trip, and there are a few different ways to go about this.
Let's say you're going to grandma's house for Christmas and it's a five hour drive to get there. You can read a story to your child about going to grandma's house, show them pictures of the car being packed with luggage and children sitting nicely in the car snuggling blankets or playing video games/watching movies, and definitely tell them all about what the trip entails. The more your child knows, the more prepared he or she will be. Don't forget to pack snacks, water, medications, movies and your child's favorite toys, blankets or pillow so that they can stay entertained and be comfortable. It's comforting to your child to have something familiar from home while they are in an unfamiliar place.
Taking the Amtrak train may be more difficult for a child with autism or other special needs because of the stops it makes and the sometimes random time of day it departs. But once again, it's all about preparing your child for what they will encounter. If your child has transition issues, you should be prepared and have a plan in place so that you can minimize behaviors. Some positives notes about taking the train are that the constant motion of the train can be very soothing and there's usually more space to move around and explore. If your child loves trains, then it may be a treat for him or her to ride one.
We're ready for takeoff
Traveling by air is a very common method of transportation especially around the holidays, and it can be challenging, but there are a few simple things you can do to have a good trip. First you should call the airline and let them know that your child has autism or other special needs and be detailed about their condition. You can even email or fax them your child's diagnosis and allergy information. They will be understanding and assist you any way they can. If possible, inform airport security about your child's condition and try to arrange a "practice run" so that your child can practice going through the airport and security before your day of travel. If your child is over 18, they must have an identification card. If they have a cell phone, as a safety precaution, it's a good idea to activate the GPS so that they can be tracked.
Whether you're traveling by plane, train or automobile or staying at home, my hope is that you and your family will have a fun and safe holiday season!