Are the multitude of therapies and a full daily schedule wearing down on your whole family?
Feeling overwhelmed and disconnected?
This sounds like me and my family… a LOT!
Both of my children have struggled with being understood by others. Since they were toddlers we have gone to hundreds of therapy sessions to help build their executive functioning, social and language skills. Going anywhere outside the home was a challenge. Respite seemed out of the question with no family nearby to help.
Luckily, since the moment my kids were born they have been long-distance car travelers. This also meant we could take “staycations”. These included day-trips or short getaways for a night or two.
Whatever fun, educational, adventurous, family-oriented place we could find, we were there! We got memberships because I strongly believed in the importance of experiential learning for my autistic kids. But most of these places are a sensory nightmare! Even though my children are sensory-seekers, I knew exactly when they were overloaded.
Behold, the MELTDOWN!
I feared that taking a vacation longer than a couple of days would spell trouble. Especially if we took them to a very sensory-intense environment, like a theme park.
Taking Vacations to the Next Level
Still, I couldn’t resist the urge to watch those Disney planning vacation videos. My kids soon obsessed about them, too, watching them again and again. After two years of dropping hints to my husband, he conceded. I finally got the “green-light” to plan our first family vacation to Walt Disney World! Leaving nothing to chance, I spent HOURS researching, planning, and talking to agents to ensure we would have a seamlessly good time.
And, guess what?!
We had an AMAZING time!
My children were captivated by the magic of Walt Disney World. And I was captivated by their enthusiasm and pure joy. My young kids actually flourished considering the sensory stimulation. And we came back with a deeper connection and appreciation for one another, bonding over our mutual love for Disney. It’s what inspired my daughter to develop her skill as an artist, my son as a writer, and myself as a personal travel advisor for Disney vacations.
After that trip, I recognized how incredibly important and inspiring vacations like these are to the well-being of everyone in the family. No matter how big or small, these travel experiences are even more important for families like mine who are feeling exhausted, discouraged and disconnected. Considering that about 87% of families with autism currently don’t take vacations, no wonder that they are burned out!*
Did you know that most vacation destinations have accommodations for those on the autism spectrum?
Many theme parks, vacation resorts and interactive museums are recognizing the need to provide accommodations for a growing number of youth and adults diagnosed with autism. Some destinations are “Certified Autism Centers”, meaning their staff are well-trained in understanding autism.
On our last trip to Walt Disney World, we observed a woman reassure her daughter who had sensory anxiety that the attraction we were on was going to be a great experience. I asked if she had the Disability Access Service (DAS) pass. She had never even heard of it. I explained what it was and how it could help her daughter.
Considering this fellow guest at Disney was not aware of the DAS, it wouldn’t surprise me if many other people stop themselves from even considering a vacation because they don’t know that accommodations are available. About 93% of parents stated they would take vacations if more autism-friendly options were available.* My goal is to bring greater awareness to opportunities that already exist and helping you prepare for magical trips.
Did you know that there are many adventures for those with autism beyond your typical vacation ?
First, there is Scouting.
Scouts BSA is just one of several scouting organizations that provide amazing camping and adventure trips for teen girls and boys as well as their families. They are dedicated to serving all youth, including those with autism. My son has achieved the highest possible rank in Boy Scouts—the Eagle Scout. He has gone on high-adventure trips to the Minnesota lakes (with dad) and the Florida Keys (without dad). He has worked two summers at the local Boy Scout camp. All of this enabled him to learn invaluable independence and leadership skills and explore the world in the process. Now that girls have been welcomed into Scouts BSA my daughter will now have those same opportunities!
Second, there are camps specifically for or accommodate those with autism.
Every summer Easter Seals organizes a week-long camp for spectrum kids known as Camp Rocks. My daughter loved spending time swimming, performing skits and being with other autistic girls who “got her”. Compassionate and skillful staff help each camper work on their own therapeutic goals. In the meantime, parents can have a week of caregiving respite and maybe take a little vacation of their own.
There are others that are geared to all youth but make special accommodations to make sure autistic kids’ needs are met. The Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, has a scholarship available for autistic teens up to the challenges of this amazing experience.
I am so excited to share our travel lessons and experiences with YOU!
Despite living in a world that is not always “autism friendly”, I believe no one should be excluded from the ability and opportunity to see the world.
With lessons my family and I have learned from our own adventures, I hope to provide you with some inspiration, encouragement and guidance to seek your own!
I would love to hear from you!
If you have a question about a destination, planning a trip, or about any topic related to traveling with autism, I’d love to help! Email me any time: firstname.lastname@example.org.