Contribution from freelance writer Lucy Wyndham
Every once in a while, the Leka Team is happy to welcome external contributors and share their food for thoughts. This post has been written by Lucy Wyndham whose husband is on the spectrum.
Going on a road trip with your autistic child is going to be easy if you plan and prepare well in advance. Everyone knows the challenges that lie when you have an offspring who is on the autism spectrum. It takes a lot of patience and organization for plans to materialize but with the extra effort in preparation, there is no reason why your journey is not a pleasant one with only the odd bump here and there.
Make Shorter Trips
Your child might do well on car trips but longer rides mean they are taken out of their routine and comfort zones. Kids on the autism spectrum may have difficulty in transitioning from one activity to another. They might have problems in changes in their routines. A long car ride is not going to be easy for them. To make the shift from one activity to another easier, you probably need to make a shorter trip to gradually ease your child into it.
Take Regular Breaks
Rest breaks are very important for both driver and passengers. To make it interesting to your child, choose stops where there is a playground or something to see whether it is a restaurant, park or picnic ground. A bathroom is also a necessity during your breaks so make sure your stop has this facility.
Bringing something that is familiar on the journey will help the transition easier for your kid. A favorite toy, blanket, book or something that soothes and calms them will make the trip fuss-free. You should also travel in a comfortable car and not in a sports or tiny vehicle where there is hardly room to wiggle. If renting a vehicle, ensure that there is a good car seat or bring your own. Having food and drinks nearby inside the car can help reduce tantrums. A child who is not feeling thirsty or hungry will likely go through the journey without a lot of complaints.
Time Your Travel
Traffic and busy roads might upset your child who is not used to this type of scenery and environment. Sensory overload becomes a problem. If able, try to drive early in the morning or later in the night when traffic is less dense and your offspring is likely to sleep. Avoid breaks when they are sleeping in the car to avert tantrums and moody behavior.
Road trips are great ways of discovering new places and getting out of your usual routines. For children with special needs, it also helps them create familiar environments outside of the home. Most of all, it benefits families by bonding closer when spending time together in the confines of a car.