Beaches and blue skies bring an abundance of opportunities to get away and enjoy some summer fun. And on the heels of a global pandemic that kept many of us quarantined to our own zip codes for months on end, there’s no question we’re ready for adventure.
While taking the time to compose a vacation plan is always helpful, it’s especially so when you have a child with special needs. Some of our therapists at Anderson Center for Autism recently weighed in on the topic, and have provided a few tips I wanted to share as you build your itinerary so that your time away can be as relaxing as possible:
Consider destinations that are friendly to people who are differently abled. For example, our neighboring community of Rhinebeck, NY has been designated an Autism Supportive Community. Other towns in the United States, along with places outside of the country such as Newfoundland and Ireland, have also been named autism-friendly. And many island resorts boast all kinds of accommodations for people of all ages who have special needs. Know before you go!
Explore your transportation options. Is it preferable to travel by plane, train, or automobile? Is it easier to pack your car with everything that will make your child most comfortable, or better to avoid the long trip and hop on a plane? Will you have to deal with layovers or can you get a direct flight? Is the airline or train line willing to ensure that you have ample space in a quiet section? What will be the most comfortable and fun way to go for all of you? Sometimes it’s worth spending a little more money to ensure a higher-quality journey.
Prepare your child. Communicate frequently in advance of the trip, providing your child with a sense of what to expect, which should help minimize anxiety. Some of our team members have put together picture books for our students who struggle with changes in routine and new experiences; the books incorporate images of what they’ll see and do, which helps the traveling student feel more comfortable in the days or weeks leading up to the excursion. Families who use these books report more relaxing experiences, as their children with special needs seem more relaxed as they see in person those things they’d been exposed to ahead of time in the photographs.
As Arthur Ashe famously said, “preparation is the key to confidence.” A little extra legwork will go a long way in helping you and your family fully enjoy the vacation time you’ve long awaited.
Patrick Paul is the CEO/Executive Director of Anderson Center for Autism, located in Staatsburg, whose organizational mission is to “optimize the quality of life for people with autism.” Visit andersoncenterforautism.org to learn more.