Traveling and vacations can be a wonderful way to unwind, relax, and make memories as a family. For families with a member on the spectrum, vacation may sound daunting, stressful, and scary. Good news: Traveling can actually help establish generalization of skills, access to new environments, and maybe open our eyes to some additional skills that need to be taught! Here are some tips to help your vacation run smoothly.
Tip 1: Start small.
Try a day trip or short weekend away to prepare for a longer vacation that involves more travel. This can help pinpoint some areas of weakness that you can work with your Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) on during family training.
Tip 2: Try to maintain some sort of routine.
While day-to-day life looks different on vacation, try to incorporate some parts of your child’s routine. Whether that be morning, lunch, or bedtime routines. This will help your child adjust by providing some known expectations in an unfamiliar place!
Tip 3: Consider your child’s communication needs.
Remember to pack what your child needs for communication. If they are non-vocal and/or using an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device, bring it with you. That may also include a Picture Exchange Communication System.
Talk to your BCBA or provider about adding some pictures that will be present on vacation (i.e. bathing suit, beach, sand, water, etc.) Start to familiarize your child with these icons and pictures! Use it to tell them where they are going in the weeks prior. Additionally, practice your child carrying their AAC device on their own if they’re able. This will help reduce stress levels when you are carrying a million things for the rest of the family!
Tip 4: Talk about it!
Start talking about vacation! Show your child pictures and videos. Let your BCBA know in advance when and where you are going. This can be incorporated into their treatment! Visuals are a great way to start to prepare your child for where they are going.
Tip 5: Bring reinforcement. 😊
Pack the charger for the tablet, favorite toys, books, activities, candy, whatever it may be! Start to pair this new and unfamiliar place with reinforcement. This will help your child know that even though this is a change to their day-to-day routine, their favorite things are still a part of it!
Tip 6: Have a backup plan.
It can be hard to balance the wants and needs of other siblings on vacation with your child on the spectrum. They may become overwhelmed by the activities that their siblings find exciting. Have options for your child to do something different. If doing something different is not available, make sure to space them out and not do all the big things in one day!
Tip 7: Incorporate time to unwind.
Schedule in some time for your child to do what they want! Whether that be quiet time by the pool, the hotel room, or even in the car. Give them the opportunity and way to be able to communicate with you that they need some quiet time. Noise canceling headphones are a great option for your child if it’s appropriate to do so!
Tip 8: Practice waiting!
Have some options while waiting (iPad, game, puzzle, fidget, etc.). Sometimes, waiting while on vacation is inevitable. If you’re going to an amusement park, waiting for dinner, or in other lines, practice that with your child in the weeks leading up to it! Have a designated preferred “waiting” item that your child can hold on to. This will reinforce the waiting behavior, redirect them, as well as teach them that when they are playing with this specific toy, it means that they may be sitting and waiting for a while, but it will be over soon.
By Maggie Czarski, BCBA
We hope these tips help lead you to a successful, memory-making family trip! If you’re interested in receiving early intervention services, contact us at 443.300.6362 or email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.