Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Autism and a Successful Family Vacation

C1 and I in a gondola on the skytrail, a feature at Trees of Mystery.
Since we moved to the Pacific Northwest from Michigan two years ago we have traveled often to get a feel for the area. Over Spring Break this year, we decided to drive from the Northwest corner of Washington down through Oregon and over the California border to see the magnificent Coastal Redwoods. The trip would be our longest road trip ever with both boys including our thirteen-year-old son with autism. Our greatest hope was that our experience with our previous vacations would help us avoid some of the challenges of travelling with a child who has autism.

To be truthful, my husband and I were a little fearful that things might fall apart along the way because of a meltdown from an unexpected source or inappropriate behavior. However, we didn't let that fear stop us. Instead we scheduled tours and hotel stops like any family. Like anyone with kids, we made sure all our hotels had a pool to visit, and we stuck to a basic schedule for swimming no matter where we were at. 

The boys knew they could swim after check in during the early afternoon and in the morning after breakfast before checking out. In addition, before we even left, C1 knew exactly which hotels we would be staying in and viewed the website for each one. We also briefed him as to which places we would be touring and outlined our expectations for behavior each time. 

It wasn't a perfect trip. We made a couple of mistakes such as making a surprise trip to an aquarium, which isn't really a 'safe spot' for us because it doesn't fit into any of his special interests (light houses, Capitol buildings, monuments) and has the potential of featuring the dreaded turtles or tortoises. We also noticed he struggled with lunch time, especially when we brought out food we had bought earlier for picnics. He much preferred going to a fast food place. So now that we know picnic lunches can be an issue, we will work to make sure he has full knowledge and proper expectations of what lunch will be like.
 Photo by C1. 

 Photo by C1. 
However, the trip as a whole was incredible, and my husband I consider it to be a huge success. I believe we bonded as a family while doing many family friendly activities. Further, I achieved my lifelong dream of seeing the Redwoods, and we had a great time that day. Besides visiting the Trees of Mystery attraction, we also visited the Oregon Caves, two lighthouses (the one above is the Umpqua River lighthouse), The Sea Lion Caves, and the Washington State Capitol building. I have to smile, because of all the things we did, the only thing my son talks about is touring the Capitol building in Olympia, WA. I'm just glad we all had a great time. It was a trip we will all remember (in a good way!) the rest of our lives. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

World Autism Day 2012

Today I'd like to give a shout out to all my readers all over the world who are raising a child with autism. If raising a child is difficult, raising a child with autism is at least four times as hard. However, it's definitely a worthwhile endeavor. I've become a better person as a result of being a parent of a thirteen-year-old boy on the autism spectrum. People who have autism view and react to the world differently than those who don't, thus giving us a whole new perspective. Anyway, my heart goes out to you all, and not just for today because we deal with challenges every single day of the year.