Whether it’s a road trip visiting family, a plane ride to Disney World, or a weekend camping trip, getting to our destination always has its ups and downs. Everyone is susceptible to stress, excitement, and feeling overwhelmed when traveling.
For autistic individuals, certain environments can heighten stress levels. Because of this, it’s essential to understand how best to support an adult or child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) during travel.
This blog will look at the following travel topics:
- Is traveling good for autism?
- How do airlines accommodate autism?
- How do you travel with autism?
- Does Disneyland accommodate autistic people?
Is Traveling Good for Autism?
Travel with an autistic loved one may be overwhelming for both them and the family. Because people on the spectrum are unique, experiences with travel will differ from person to person. For some, traveling can be therapeutic and an overall positive experience.
For others, travel may come with many challenges and the need for compromise. Whether or not a person with autism enjoys travel, it’s always good to have tools ready for minimizing stress.
For anyone, traveling can help build confidence, promote hands-on learning, and foster opportunities for making new connections with others around the world. It also exposes you to different cultures, environments, and experiences, which can help broaden your knowledge and perspective of the world.
How Do Airlines Accommodate Autism?
Most airlines are autism-friendly and allow people with autism to pre-board the flight with their family members. By being one of the first on the flight, each autistic person can enter a more controlled environment and get used to their surroundings before others begin to settle around them.
In some cases, an airline will offer certified autism programs, sensory kits, sensory or quiet rooms, and tours of empty planes for individuals to familiarize themselves with the space before the flight. Sensory rooms offer quiet spaces for travelers who need a sensory break amidst the busy airport environment.
How Do You Travel with Autism?
When preparing your loved one traveling with autism, using audio or visual supports can be helpful distractions in cases of over-stimulus and stress, including writing a social story about air travel that can be used as a reference. It’s also helpful to provide sensory blockers like headphones in case of distractions or stressful situations.
Additionally, having a small backpack with items that an autistic child or adult can access is beneficial, providing a great opportunity for practicing coping methods in the face of high stress and stimulus in new environments.
Traveling with autism can be challenging but is possible with the proper preparation.
Some tips for traveling with a loved one diagnosed with autism include:
- Minimize the number of steps and distractions to avoid sensory overload.
- Sign up for TSA Pre-Check to reduce lines.
- Look for airports that offer autism-specific programs.
- Go over the steps with your loved one to prepare them for what to expect.
- Bring something comforting from home, such as a favorite toy or activity.
- Visit the airport ahead of time to help familiarize your loved one with the environment.
- Check flight schedules for the best times of day for your loved one to travel.
- Be organized and create a “last-minute list” of items you may need to bring.
- Create a sensory kit for the trip with items such as earplugs for loud noises and fidget toys as distractions.
Examples of Items in a Sensory Kit
- Long-lasting candies (e.g., lollipop, jaw breaker)
- Crunchy or chewy snacks
- Hand lotion
- Coloring book with scented markers
- Familiar items for comfort smells (e.g., shampoo, toothpaste, unlit candle, etc.)
- Sticky notes (Can be placed over sensors and lit-up buttons)
- Sunglasses (dim, bright, or flashing lights)
- Sleep mask
- Books or movies, if a player is available
- Earbuds or headphones
- Ear plugs
- Harmonica, whistle, or other small instruments (use at rest stops, etc.)
- White noise machine (Use in an appropriate setting like a family car, hotel room, etc.)
- Hand lotion
- Fidget toy
- Slime or clay
- Plush toy or weighted blanket
Does Disneyland Accommodate Autistic People?
Disneyland Resort in California, including California Adventures, offers a variety of accommodations for guests with both physical and cognitive disabilities, including the following:
- Advanced Ticket Purchase
- Stroller and Wheelchair Rental
- Strollers as Wheelchairs
- Rider Switch
- Accessing Attractions
- Break Areas
- Companion Restrooms
- Attraction Guides
- Dietary Accommodations
Disneyland also provides guides for people with disabilities, helping them get the most out of their time with the many attractions and the resort. Their site offers more details on each accommodation, which can be found on their Disneyland Services for Guests with Cognitive Disabilities page.
Roman Empire Agency Offers Autism Resources and Support
The next time you and your loved one leave home, heading a couple of hours north or to an international airport, we hope this information provides a more enjoyable experience for you and your loved ones.
Our professional team has been providing supportive services for the developmentally disabled for over a decade. We offer training programs such as ABA Therapy, Supported Living Services (SLS), Independent Living Skills Training (ILS), and more.
Reach out today to learn how we can serve you and your family in building a brighter, prepared future.