Haven’t our kids been amazing the last few months? Its been so tough on them cooped up indoors, out of their routine and away from nearly everyone and everything they know. We’ve had a few lets call the ‘hairy moments’ but, overall, I think they’ve been pretty amazing. And so have us parents! I mean, we’ve been homeschool teacher, special education teacher, Occupational Therapist, play therapist, physio, cleaner, entertainer, cook of 500,000 meals a day and peace keeper. I also may have become more acquainted with the drinks aisle of my local supermarket! We deserve all the gin and prosecco the world has to offer. There really should be a government grant given to us to purchase copious amounts to get us through, purely medicinal purposes of course! (Please drink responsibly at all times)
One thing I see a lot of people saying is about how much they’re going to travel after all this is over. About all the places in Ireland they’ll visit on the weekends and the places they’ll travel abroad to next year. But, this is not something straight forward for our families, we can’t just turn around and say “Right kids, get dressed we’re going on an adventure!” Even the most simplest of journeys can require military planning from a parent of an autistic child. With all that in mind here are a few tips and tricks that you can start now if you do want to travel but are afraid how your child will react. These will not only ease them into the idea of travelling on a larger holiday next year or later this year but you can also squeeze in a few mini breaks too.
Make them part of the process
Making your child part of the process will help them feel more at ease with travelling. This will help them to acclimatize to the thoughts f actually going and being somewhere new. Also knowing it will only be for a short period with ease any anxieties about what they may be leaving behind. This could be just as simple as looking at brochures or websites of people going on holidays, planting the seed as it were. Discuss all things about a holiday and what it means, describe your ideal day on holiday and get them to do the same. Drawing it too can help them visualize and even communicate any fears they may have about travelling.
Book A Hotel for the Night
If you are worried about how your child will react or cope in an unfamiliar place, do a trial run. Book a night at a hotel, this doesn’t have to be too far from home. Just somewhere that you will have to travel a short journey either by car or public transport. But somewhere that you are close enough to home in the event things didn’t go to plan. I will be featuring some great hotels around the country in some upcoming blogs, so watch out for ones near to you. If this is a step too far for your child, start off by visiting the hotel. Walk around the grounds, explain what a hotel is and what you can do when staying there. If its suitable for your child have a cuppa or some lunch. Even if you had to do that a few times, each time getting more and more familiar with the idea of what a hotel is. Then when they’re ready ask them would they like to sleep there for the night.
If your child is a fan of stories and books choose ones that are holiday related. Jasmine loves books, she has since she was a baby she’d sit there ‘reading’ them from a few months old. She wont often allow you to read her a book, but does love to hear stories. I often make up stories for her. In her mind, thanks to Peppa, a story has to begin with Once Upon a Time and end with The End. I have made up stories about Christmas, holidays, going to the Zoo, the beach you name it. I have to call her Princess Jasmine, we’re Queen Mummy, King Daddy and of course the other two are Prince and Princess too. Because they are about us, they become a sort of social story for her. She doesn’t have the understanding if I was to explain to her that we will go to A and when we get there X.Y and Z will happen. But these stories somehow she gets. Her favourite one was about playing in the snow and building snowmen, but did it bloody snow last Winter? Of course it bloody didn’t, Murphy’s Law! Pinterest also has lots of free printables about travelling and modes of transport, if you look me up I’ll actually create a board with some really good resources you can choose from. And don’t forget a good old fashioned colouring book and crayons with a holiday theme, or even plain paper and their imagination.
Take a trip to the Beach
Ireland is surrounded by beautiful beaches, we are lucky that even if you live in the Midlands you are no further than a couple of hours drive from your nearest one. Organizing a day at the beach can be beneficial in so many ways. It getting you out for a much needed family day out, but can also tell you if a beach is going to be important when it comes to looking at that ‘BIG’ holiday. If its a total flop, you know its not on the priority list. You could also combine this with the overnight hotel stay and make a proper mini break out of it. Be prepared to be surprised too, in Jasmine’s head going to the beach was building sandcastles. When we went first last year, I thought Id spend the entire day making them but she had ZERO interest in the sand and just wanted to be in the sea the whole day! If you do want to try a beach trip for the first time don’t go to the most popular beach, usually if you travel even half a mile up the road there’ll be a much quieter beach that won’t have hoards descending onto it all at once all fighting for a spot and a decent carparking space.
Think about Transport
If you know how you’re going to travel on your family holiday, just like the hotel do a dummy run. If your trip involves a train, start off by visiting your local train station and have a coffee. Depending on your childs reaction you could even travel a few stops but remember you do have to come back again, so build them up slowly if needed. You can always work up into another day outing. If you’re a carer you have your free travel pass, so make good use of it, you will only have to pay the child fare. If you’re travelling by plane again, visit the airport. Pick a quiet day if needed. If you can afford it, book a short internal flight or a quick flight to the UK most of which are 30-50 mins you could even do a day return or combine it with your hotel stay. Take your time going around either the train station or the airport. Point out all the things you can see, the different type of staff there. Go right from the check-in desks all the way upto security, talking and discussing each point. Choose a good viewing point, grab some lunch or if you’ve brought a packed lunch and watch the planes take off and land. Shannon Airport have a brilliant scheme in place, where you can book a familiarisation (fam) trip if you are travelling with someone with special needs and they will guide you through step by step. Another good tip is to create a scavenger hunt which will keep their mind focused. If you are travelling via ferry, you will find many places in Dublin you will see the boats coming in and out. Ardgillan Castle is one example, its a brilliant day out in itself but has some beautiful view over the bay. You can also avail of the day trips Stenaline offer to Wales from e10 per person for a foot passenger. When we lived in the UK, we travelled on Stena at least once a year and cannot fault them in the slightest. Great entertainment for families and their premium lounge is fantastic
Utilize this amazing resource. There’s a video for everything on You Tube right? Watch videos of the destination you want to travel to, of the mode of transport or carrier, of the airport or train station. You’ll be hard pushed not to find a video to suit your needs. Even if your child is not directly watching it, playing it regularly in the background allows it to subliminally sink in and they will absorb the information. And don’t forget to check out the excursion too!!!
Thinking about travelling with your special needs child can be a scary and daunting thought, even more so with the current situation. But know that you are not alone. I am here for you 100% of the way, with advice and recommendations. Don’t be afraid to get in touch, you can comment below, click the contact me section or message me on Facebook or Instagram. If you are going to do any of the above during climate please contact the provider first to check if there are any restrictions or requirements in place prior to arriving. And remember….