Tips for traveling with autism spectrum disorder

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When your child or loved one suffers from an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) traveling may seem like a beautiful idea that is completely out of reach for your family. The unfamiliar places, people, and sounds may trigger your loved one, and put them in a state of panic or anger. However, this doesn't always have to be the case. With a bit of planning and support, you can learn to enjoy going on family vacations and traveling with ASD without some of the common mishaps or triggers that foreign or unknown environments can stir up. 

Plan For Your Trip Well In Advance

Little things that can help your loved one get used to your upcoming vacation or traveling experience can go a long way. Some things you can do to help your child or loved one prepare include role playing for the trip ahead, creating a schedule for your trip, using a visual calendar to help relay your itinerary, and including your loved one in making your travel plans. Using pictures of the places you go in your visual calendar, and ensuring you bring the necessary items that will make the trip run smoother are also helpful. Such items may include:

  • Sensory toys

  • Noise cancelling headphones

  • A weighted blanked

  • A favorite item of comfort

  • Any necessary forms of ID

  • Sunglasses

  • Snacks

  • Various forms of entertainment

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For those who are new to traveling, it can help to start with small trips first in order to acclimate your loved one to being in the car or plane and exploring new places. It is also helpful to map out the travel route you will be taking visually. If driving, it's important to take frequent breaks, and it can also help to leave at night so your child is sleeping for the duration of your drive. Those who are flying will benefit from taking a direct flight and selecting your seat ahead of time so that it's not too close to the restroom or places of heavy traffic, and you can plan to have your child sit between both parents or family members. TSA pre-check is also helpful so that your child doesn't become overwhelmed going through security, as well as booking bulk row seating so that you will have some extra space so that your loved one isn't as affected by others on the plane. 

For those of you who would like to plan your vacation around ASD friendly destinations, the Autism Spectrum Disorder Travel Guide has listed some of the top ASD-friendly destinations for your family to enjoy. These include:

Having a child or loved one with ASD is a special gift. While it may present some challenges in everyday life and activities, it shouldn't hold you back from enjoying life with your family and creating special bonding memories that will last a life-time. If you'd like some further assistance with adjusting to this new life in the Great Falls, Montana area we have a variety of classes and services available to help your family and loved ones adjust and thrive. Feel free to contact us or fill out our contact form to be placed on our waiting list or receive additional information about the services Big Sky Therapeutic Services provides. 



Jayna Nickert