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Vacation Tips for Your Children and Young Adults

with Autism and/or Anxiety


Ahhh … hot afternoons, ice cold lemonade, summer novels  –  and family vacation!

In the spring, we all count the days until school is out when we can relax and get ready for that annual family trip to the mountains, to the beach, or to Great Aunt Sally’s cabin by the lake.  But how relaxing is it, really?

With children or young adults with autism or severe anxiety, the change of routine and structure can often bring out less-than-desirable behaviors.  Your son or daughter might be telling you they don’t really want to go.  Or you might be worrying that there will be a repeat from last year when little Billy had a total meltdown by the pool because the sunscreen felt slimy.  Or Susie only wanted to be on the iPad during family dinner, and your sister-in-law (who, of course, used to be a special ed teacher and knows all) lectures you on the pitfalls of too much screen time.  Whew!  The stress can be felt throughout the family, and you might even be thinking, “Is all this ‘FUN’ worth it”?

What to do?  Well, I am sure these are not brand new ideas to you, but maybe a few reminders can prevent you from wanting to run, screaming, from poolside and wishing Calgon could truly take you away.

  • Print out a written itinerary and agenda of the vacation, and present it at your “family meeting” before the trip.   Sure, it sounds great to be carefree and spontaneous, but NOT with children who thrive on knowing what to expect and when to expect it.   Do yourself a favor and be boring and plan everything out.
  • Play a family game (yes, at that same “family meeting”) of “what could possibly go wrong?”  It’s actually super fun to see what your kids might come up with and then brainstorm, or even role play, what everyone could do to fix the crazy problem they concoct.  We all know Murphy’s Law – something will  go wrong – no matter how well-organized or planned you are.
  • Assign a special “role” or job for each family member (especially, your child or young adult who is HFA).  For example, your technology child (of course, which one isn’t?) could be the official family videographer and use that device (that they might be addicted to) to make a family documentary of the trip.  OR your headphones child could be the “DJ” for parts of the trip and put together the music playlist for your drive. They could interview other family members to get each person’s favorite top-ten requests.  OR your history nut could be in charge of researching your destination before your trip and even put together homemade “brochures” on highlighted sites you will visit. Okay, so you get the idea … when individuals feel that they are contributing to the family experience in a meaningful way, they are often more connected, more valued, and EVERYONE is happier!

So go pour yourself another glass of lemonade, make those travel reservations, and actually r-e-l-a-x!  This could be that family vacation you talk about for years to come – for all the right  reasons : )

Live in the Dallas, Texas, area? Be sure to check out the amazing programs we offer for young adults with autism, ADHD, anxiety, and other learning differences!


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