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Tips for Traveling with an Autistic Family Member

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Tips for Children

When you have an Autistic or Asperger’s child, the idea of traveling can feel like a daunting task. One of the main symptoms of autism is the need for a routine, and traveling can throw routine right out the window. But it is not always possible to stay confined at home. So, is traveling possible or even advisable with an autistic child?

Absolutely! I was inspired by Gina Degiudice-Asch, a mother with a 16 year old autistic son. The New York Times posted a video interview (produced by Miki Meek) with Gina discussing how she overcomes the challenges of traveling with her autistic son Andrew. She shares excellent travel tips that have worked for their family trips – such as planning in advance and adjusting how they travel. What I also found interesting was that traveling has helped Andrew grow and blossom as a young person. He has become more adaptable and now at 16, traveling has become much easier.

Tips for Adults

Traveling with an Autistic or Asperger adult can be just as daunting as traveling with an Autistic child. The need for structure and the usual routines is just as prominent for adults on the Spectrum as for children. How about the AS adult who has to count every bag multiple times and worries himself sick that the bags will get lost in transit? Or the frantic AS adult whose stress mounts with each passenger that boards ahead of him on the plane . . . worrying that there will be no more space in the overhead bin? The last thing you need is a full blown meltdown at the airport with security so tight these days.

One woman discovered this cure. Wherever she goes with her AS husband the couple has decided that they can take no more than one bag . . . and it must be a carry on. Secondly, at the gate, she notifies the airline gate attendant that her spouse has an Autism Spectrum Disorder and that he requires priority seating because of his extreme anxiety. If further explanation is necessary, she explains what an adult meltdown will look like. No problem, they are seated even before the first class passengers, so her husband can find the perfect spot to store his bag.

Planning in advance and making necessary adjustments are critical when traveling with an autistic family member. Take a few extra steps before you leave and you’ll ensure a more relaxing trip for everyone!


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