The best advice we got when Luca was a baby was this: Live your lives the way you want, don’t adjust to your baby. Instead, let your baby adjust to your life. The baby doesn’t know any different and will simply become used to life according to his/her parents. If you love to camp, go camping. If you love to travel, do it!
That being said, I know it can be really challenging for a child with autism. Especially if its something new. Here are some tips and things that have helped us have a great experience when traveling.
- Create a social story. Include everything from the airport security screening to escalators. I started doing this when Luca was young and had the attitude that the airport itself is an adventure.
- Pack lots of snacks. Especially chewy snacks. My kids rarely get candy, so I pack a handful of jelly beans for them to chew as the plane takes off. They love guessing the flavors. And they only have 4 or 5 jelly beans each by the time we are in the air. Then they move to apples, gluten free chips or crackers and anything else they love. Having your child’s favorite foods provides some comfort.
- Have sensory toys and tools. Give your kid a spinner, or a small ball they can squeeze. Sometimes holding still in line or on the airplane can be incredibly challenging for a sensory seeker. So, have a plan, bring play dough or other activities that stimulate your child’s senses.
- Give yourself plenty of time. This is more for the parent traveling. If we start to get nervous or stressed, our kids pick up on it. So giving yourself lots of time to explore the airport and relax the better.
- CBD oil. If you aren’t already using it, research it. I give Luca and myself and even Aviana a little extra CBD oil the day of travel. It helps my anxiety and helps Luca stay calm.
- Come up with a rewards system. We use fuzzies, little pom-pom cotton ball looking things. I bring a handful in my pocket and when the kids do good things, like sharing or using nice words, I give them a fuzzy. They can exchange the fuzzy for a jelly bean, or they can save them to add to our fuzzy jar. Once our fuzzy jar is full, we do something fun as a family. Like a trip to the beach, or a museum. The kids get to choose, so they work extra hard to earn fuzzies.
- Cut yourself some slack. If your kid has a meltdown, don’t get worked up. I’ve seen loads of kids melt down at an airport and on airplanes. You are not alone. And even if you get dirty looks from people, ignore them. There are bound to be people who are sympathetic and may even offer to help. So accept the help, say YES! Don’t lie and say I’ve got it. Let people help you.