As we draw closer to the end of term, your plans for the next six weeks might involve going away for a family holiday. Yet for us ASD parents, the thought of attempting to get your child out of the house calmly will be filling you with dread. However, it’s time to breathe out for a moment, I have come up with three good solutions which will take the edge of the stress of a relaxing holiday! Read on to find out…
This is what I call The Extraordinary Travel Triangle.
I shall talk you through the three sides so let’s get going!
Can’t say this enough. You know what it’s like. You want to be spontaneous whilst away on your hols but you can’t with an ASD child. So plan everything as far in advance as you possibly can. I usually talk Jon through where we’re going the minute it’s been booked and give him regular updates. I post pictures of the hotel, destination, places we’re going to visit on his wall in his bedroom so he can see them every day. I also give him website addresses to look places up. It takes the surprise out of the holiday but it means that your child, like Jon, is well up to speed with what exactly is going to happen!
When travelling, (and I still do this) I have always made sure that there is enough with me to take care of every possibility. As ASD mums and dads, we never gave up the tissues, baby wipes and bottles for our children, no matter how old they got, so take more than enough than you need when going on holiday, even on day trips. Provide entertainment in the car for easy distractions (from traffic and hold ups) and don’t worry about them being plugged in to whatever gadget it is they are in to, what you are trying to avoid is stress and overload. Meltdowns are the last thing you and your child want to experience so prep to avoid these. Make sure you are travelling at quieter times, visiting places when it will be less busy too. I often take Jon out of school (with permission) and go away during the week instead of weekends. Make the first day of your holiday a chill out day and let your child adjust into the hotel or wherever you are staying. Jon would have to check out the bathrooms first and often spending lots of time sitting. That’s ok too. You may feel that you are designing the whole holiday around your child but that’s ok. A less stressed child equals a less stressed you.
Only go to theme parks and resorts if your child loves going to such places otherwise, don’t do it. Just because everyone else takes their children to Thorpe Park or Alton Towers doesn’t mean you have to too. If your child finds such places too stressful, just don’t go. Jon can’t stand loud noise and crowds of screaming children, so that rules out any theme parks and places for us, full stop. But that’s ok. If your child wants to wander around a museum full of old aircraft instead, then that’s good. Letting your child take the lead on holiday is far from giving in to them for the sake of a holiday without the meltdowns. It’s ok to have your holiday around your child. Jon hates beach holidays and gets very bored lounging around by a pool. That might be heaven to me but it can’t be helped. I would much rather Jon had a good time away than have tantrums because we don’t want to do the same things as him.
So the key here is let them have control of the things that make them happy on holiday. You will find you are less anxious and stressed if your child is having a good time. Holidays are best spent when you are doing something they enjoy doing. That might involve sitting on the floor in the hotel room. Dive into whatever your child wants to do and take the moment given to you to find out more about your child. You will never stop learning about them. Holidays are a good time to focus on this, so have some fun!
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Michelle Hatcher is the author of the Progress Pentagon parenting courses and founder of the best-selling : Unleashing The Positive Mind Masterclass. She is a certified CBT Therapist, NLP Practitioner, mother of 15 year old Jon who has Autism and PDA and certified Life Coach.
She is also a member of the Complimentary Medical Association, the International Alliance of Holistic Therapists
and The Association of Integrative Psychology. Her autobiography, How To… uncovers the secrets of Autism and how to overcome it plus it tracks her life as a mother of an Autistic child, how she developed her best-selling courses using CBT and NLP with Autism. She is also a public speaker on Autism Awareness.
She lives in Wiltshire with husband Nick, son, Jon and three cats; Apple, Missy and Augusta.