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. 

10 comments:

Casdok said...

So pleased to hear all went well. Heres to many more!

Anonymous said...

Do you follow a special diet? If so, can you do a brief summary?

Thanks very much, Stuart

Julie L. said...

Yes. Mostly, we just avoid milk and ice cream. Eliminating those items improved my son's behavior and also improved allergy symptoms.

Kids Toolbox said...

Your son is lucky to have such thoughtful, well prepared parents.

susan said...

Sounds like you guys had a great time

autism causes said...

I'm guessing C1 is your child with Autism? If that's him well just by looking at the photos he took and his photo with you on the gondola, I'd say he looks pretty healthy and happy. And you seemed to have had a pleasant vacation, you've been doing a good job of handling his condition.

Colton Reed said...

I'm a father of an autistic son.This year in the month of July,we are planning a trip to California.My wife is in little fear because we don't know,how our child will react in a new area and atmosphere.
Did you concern any autism recovery help?

Steven Sutton said...

Hello julie, I really Love reading your blog. And you really such a good parent..

Jean Quam said...

Your point of working to make sure your son has full knowledge and proper expectations about traveling and meal time--our research from the University of MN on kids with ASD supports this idea too--that it helps to let children know ahead of time what is going to occur. The use of symbols or signs can help too. For instance when a child visits the dentist, parents can use a picture schedule showing the dentist working. Anyway, thanks for sharing your experiences.

Mark said...

This was an interesting post. We love to travel but always hesitate thinking about how our four year old with autism will react. There are good days and bad ones.The most difficult is when we get a meltdown while in a very public place and all the annoyed faces start looking at you and your child...