Parents of children on the spectrum are faced with quite a few challenges in everyday life, but what happens when a family where one of the children on the spectrum at some level wants to go on vacation?
Going on holiday with a child on the spectrum requires a lot of preparation, selecting an appropriate destination, planning times and devoting quite a bit of thought to running and preparing the child before since children on the spectrum do not flow with changes so easily.
Here are some tips to adopt when designing a family vacation to make it easier for you and your child to adjust more easily.
Select a close destination
If there is a choice, choose a destination as close as possible with a short flight.
If this is the first time that the child flies abroad, it is better to make short flights.
If there is a need for a long flight, sometimes it is better to choose a flight with a call and a day’s rest between the connecting flight so as not to burden the child emotionally.
When you arrive at the airport, it is recommended that you obtain a medical certificate of your child’s condition, in order to receive preferential treatment and shortened lines for inspection and boarding.
It is recommended to choose a seat at the beginning of the plane so that you can leave quickly and go up the stairs without going through all the people and bags.
Talk to your child a few days before the flight and share it about the process that is going to be marked with each of the steps you take to give it as much confidence as possible.
Children on the spectrum are difficult to adjust to change and the environment or new people, so the more you prepare them in advance and even show them pictures of the field, security checkpoints and everything they see and pass, the easier it will be at the moment of truth.
It is recommended to go into the details, for example:
“When we pass through the security check, you will have to go by yourself but I will be behind you. You will have to put your bag in a box on a moving track, and you will get it back a minute later.”
Repeat with the child several times about each stage and when you reach a point in the field, you can tell him – remember what is coming now?
Pack everything your child might need for the flight
Do not spare things, if there are items that soothe your child – a certain dish, doll, hat, garment, or any other object – take it with you to a flight including water and food. It is even recommended that they have a portfolio of their own, with the things they like, and that will give them some sense of security and belonging.
In most of the world’s largest airports, there are special waiting rooms for children on the spectrum with fewer sensory stimuli, try to check if there is any such destination from which you fly.
It is also advisable to consult with the airline regarding the recommended seats for your child, and where the flight attendants will be more convenient to help or calm if necessary. Usually, the front of the plane is less noisy and there is more space if you have to get up with the child and not be at the end of the plane, where there are long lines for the bathroom and a lot of movement and stimulation.
Children on the spectrum may also want to kick or knock on the seat in front of them, so you may want to ask the staff for a seat without someone in front of you, so as not to disturb other passengers.
Be patient. Stay calm
Your child may express his frustration and fear by shouting or crying, feel comfortable and try to console him and calm him down. Do not get excited about the people around you.
Some of them will stare, but that should not interest you.
It is recommended to let the child sit by a window. It can give him a sense of security and make him interested in distracting him from an unfamiliar situation.
However, if your child is frantic when pressed, it is best to seat him in the aisle so that he can get up and walk freely.
Try to assure your child that if he behaves well, he will receive a reward when he lands – whether it’s a milkshake or an ice cream or a toy he wants.
Only you know what is good for your child
Try to consider him and his sensitivities when planning a family vacation.
Sometimes it is best to make a short vacation of 3-4 days to the first time abroad, so as not to cause the child to market too large.
Try to prepare all sorts of alternatives and entertainment ideas and understand if your child is going through a bad time and needs time to relax in a quiet, uninvited hotel room.
If there are other children in the family, plan that in the worst case, one of you will travel with the other children and the other will do something solid and calm with the child who is hard for him.
This is a challenging task but definitely possible and if you get calm and with the right temperament, this can be a fun family vacation.