Traveling with children can be stressful, but when your child has autism, it can present additional challenges. New environments, unfamiliar routines, and sensory overload can all cause added stress. However, with careful planning and preparation, travel can be enjoyable and manageable for both you and your child.
Autism is a complex developmental disability that our team of board certified pediatric neurologists treat at our locations in Austin and Cedar Park.
Here are some travel tips they share for children with autism to make your next trip a little easier.
Prepare Your Child for Travel
One of the best ways to ensure your child’s comfort and success during travel is to prepare them beforehand. Talk to your child about the trip, show them pictures and videos of your destination, and discuss the travel itinerary. By preparing your child ahead of time, you can help reduce their anxiety and uncertainty about travel.
Consider Travel-Related Accommodations
When choosing accommodations for your trip, make sure to consider your child’s needs. Select a hotel or vacation rental that’s situated in a quiet area, away from loud noises and crowds. Contact guest services to ensure that they can provide the necessary accommodations that your child needs.
Have Your Child Pack
Your child may feel more comfortable and relaxed when they have familiar items with them on the trip. Practice packing and unpacking with your child to familiarize them with the process. Packing their own bag can help them feel more in control. Have them pack their favorite toys, games, and books, as well as any sensory tools that your child may use at home. Having familiar items can help your child feel more secure and comfortable in an unfamiliar environment.
Prepare for Unfamiliar Noises
New environments can be overwhelming for many children on the autism spectrum, particularly if they are sensitive to noise or other stimuli. To help reduce sensory overload, pack noise-canceling headphones, sunglasses to reduce light intensity, and any other sensory aids that your child may need.
Have a Safety Plan in Place
When traveling, be sure to always have a form of ID on your child in the event you get separated at the airport or your destination. Having a safety plan in place is crucial, especially if your child tends to wander.
Reinforce Positive Behavior
When your child is doing a good job, reinforce them with a small reward (sticker, toy, book, etc) to encourage positive behavior. Remember to be patient and flexible.
Plan Supervision Ahead of Time
Consider having your family help with one-to-one supervision to help minimize stress and keep your child safe. Talk to your family ahead of time to make a rotating schedule to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Create a Schedule
Familiarity and routine can be particularly important for children with autism. Plan your travel itinerary to include familiar activities and routines and try to maintain your child’s schedule as much as possible. Consider scheduling breaks or quiet time each day to allow your child to recharge and avoid sensory overload.
Pre-pack meals and snacks
If your child has any dietary restrictions or is a picky eater, it may be helpful to pack their own meals and snacks.
Exercise prior to travel
Prior to leaving for the airport, have your child get their energy out with high motor activities such as jumping on a trampoline, running, or playing their favorite sport. This is especially helpful when you have a long travel day when your child will be sitting for extended periods of time.
Traveling with a child on the autism spectrum may require some extra preparation and patience, but it can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience with the right planning and preparation.
At Pediatrix Child Neurology Consultants of Austin, our priority is providing patients and their families the most convenient, comfortable, and positive experience while receiving expert care from highly experienced neurologists and epileptologists.
For more information on autism or to schedule an appointment with our board certified pediatric neurologists, please contact us here.