Going away for the holidays can be an exciting and sometimes overwhelming experience. As we all get ready for our next adventure, we have prepared a list of top tips to help you prepare for a successful holiday with the whole family!
If your child, family member or friend has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or other abilities, they may really enjoy sticking to a daily routine. As we know holidays often change these routines. It can help to prepare for the change early.
5 ways to do this include
1. Talk about the holiday plans.
Talk about all different components of the holiday including modes of transport you will be taking, places you will be going, and things you might be doing whilst you are away (e.g. flying in a plane and going to the airport, driving in the car and stopping at different locations, going to the theme parks, etc.)
When engaging in discussions it can be helpful to talk about emotions that everyone may be experiencing. For example, being excited to go to this new place near the beach, but also being a little sad about leaving the family pet and being worried about potentially forgetting something. When adults talk about emotions they are feeling, it helps to normalise the feeling, and to take the spotlight away from the other members of the family. It also gives you an opportunity to voice how you may overcome these obstacles to ensure a great time away (e.g. calling the pet sitter every second day and writing a list to not forget anything), to reinforce everything will be OK.
2. Prepare some visuals to help new experiences feel more familiar.
You might even prepare a social story or visual schedule which includes photos of the accommodation, places you may go on the trip and things that will be completed. This can assist in decreasing the overall anxiety and overwhelmed feelings by showing your child, family member or friend what they can expect and prepare for next.
3. Maintain a degree of routine and predictability.
Maintaining some common routines and experiences in your day can help to create a sense of familiarity. Three ways to maintain routine and predictability include
- Scheduling time to maintain a morning or mealtime routine that is the same each day. For example, the morning routine might be: wake up, get dressed, walk to get a milkshake, return to your accommodation for breakfast.
- Have some familiar and enjoyable breakfast options available at your accomodation
- Pack comfortable and familiar clothing for your trip
4. Schedule regulating activities throughout the day.
This will again be different for everyone. This is because each person has their own sensory profile which describes how they respond to different sensory experiences and activities. It can be helpful to schedule regulating activities throughout your day to help your child, family member or friend to stay regulated. For example, if you plan on going to a restaurant for dinner with someone who is sensitive to noise, consider how you might plan regulating activities before and after the dinner to help create a more enjoyable experience.
Some common regulating experiences include
- Heavy work - eg. carrying shopping to the car
- Quiet time - eg schedule quiet time throughout the day which reduces sensory input and cognitive demands
- Fidget toys, or toys the individual enjoys
- Respiratory activites eg - blowing bubbles, singing songs
5. Prepare a Wandering Action Plan
Wandering is the tendency for an individual to try to leave the safety of a responsible person’s care or a safe area, which has the potential to result in harm or injury. Roughly half (48%) of children with ASD attempt to wander from a safe environment. These numbers continue to rise when in a new or unfamiliar environment such as on a holiday. A Wandering Action Plan helps us to identify and plan for the risks, to help keep our loved ones safe.
You can reach out to engage Autism Swim’s Therapy team for support developing your wandering action plan.