Traveling with autism

My husband Mike and I are heading north this week to spend Thanksgiving with our son. Gus is 23 years old now, and we look forward to Thanksgiving dinner with him and his three roommates in their Wisconsin group home.

When Gus still lived at home with us, our family often spent Thanksgiving Day on the road. Back then there wasn’t much guidance, either in newspaper articles or from books, about ways to make it easier to travel with a special needs child. That’s why I was so happy to find an article highlighting tours and travel agencies catering to the needs of families with autism in the travel section of a Sunday New York Times last year.

While most people look forward to a vacation with its new vistas, surroundings, food and routines, many families traveling with children with autism face a daunting task of providing some well-established routines to help their child feel secure. Long lines, masses of travelers, new schedules for eating and sleeping can throw off their child and make the trip less than relaxing.

The article chronicles families staying at hotels that have made accommodations for children with autism. It also points out that Americans with autism are vacationing in record numbers.

Yet for every parent who decides they’re better off staying at home with a child who might have a meltdown if someone accidentally brushes against him at a hotel breakfast buffet, there are others who are determined to hit the road, particularly if there are nonautistic siblings in the equation.

Congrats to the hotels who are wise enough to go out of their way to educate themselves and their staff about autism. Goodness knows our families need vacations as much — or more — as any other family does!


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