Autism Family Travel Essentials #MarkWarnerMum

Autism Family Travel Essentials #MarkWarnerMum

What I am asking for may be impossible.

For my son, many things are – at least for now. He struggles to run, jump and play like other little boys. Communication is difficult and must be learned, painstakingly; it is not instinctual. He faces many challenges, mini-mountains to overcome, every day. Some days, he struggles to function and his pain is tangible to me. But his resilience is my inspiration.

We have learned to accept that there are some things we can change and there are some things that will just be. This is one of the greatest lessons autism has taught me. We keep striving to challenge him, to make him the best he can be. But we also accept his limitations and support him as best we can in the things he finds challenging.

As an autism family, our lives often revolve around anticipating our son’s needs, reacting to his moods, challenges and joys. We are very good at it. His baby sister is just two years old and already she knows the ins and outs of his moods, when she can play, and when she should stay away. We are the only experts in managing him and keeping him happy. Unfortunately, in many circumstances, leaving home has the consequence that we relinquish some of that control, meaning life can become more difficult.

Until recently, when a friend mentioned how brilliant Mark Warner had been for her own little boy on the spectrum, I would have assumed that a holiday abroad would be almost impossible. We have travelled abroad before, to visit my mum and dad in France – where every detail of Biggest’s routine can be managed to be as close to home as possible. Even then, the reality of travelling, of preparing, of making everything go smoothly for him – it is exhausting. Often, it takes him a long time in a new place to start being our little boy again. And it takes us weeks to recover from the strain of the journey and relax too. Not only this, but we were able to take a car full of familiar things – his own plates, bowls and cups, his own duvet and pillow. On a traditional package holiday, we would be extremely limited in the physical objects that we could bring to keep his routine constant.

With that in mind, many of the things on our Autism Family Travel Essentials Mood Board will not take up space in a case – but they are the essential ingredients to making an (almost?) impossible dream become a reality for us.

Autism Family Travel Essentials

Our Mood Board is interactive. Click on each square to view our autism family travel essentials:



QUIET

Biggest is curious and imaginative, just like any 4-year-old.
But the world can be a painful and chaotic place for him. He can lose himself in that chaos.
At these times, he needs home comforts – objects that are familiar and safe for him.
He also needs time, and a quiet space, so that he can self-soothe and come back to us.

ELECTRICITY

For most families, electronic equipment like tablets, mp3 players and smart phones are a luxury.
For Biggest, these objects give so much more than entertainment. They give him the ability to cope, predictability in unpredictable places. They give him peace.
Many autism families add chargers and wifi to the list of things that are absolute essentials.
And, as mummy is a blogger, they have become essentials for her too!

PEACE OF MIND

Like any parents, we struggle when leaving Biggest and Littlest with other people. It means we rarely get time for ourselves.
This is a worry for all parents, but when your child has autism there are further complications.
Not only would we have to completely trust anyone supervising him while travelling, we would also have to feel assured that they understood his needs.
His severe rigidity of thought means that sometimes, even we struggle to know what might cause him anxiety. We need peace of mind that our children are safe that we will be contacted if Biggest is distressed.

FLEXIBILITY

On some days, we go on adventures and everything goes perfectly. Biggest is happy. Nothing unpredictable happens. We can visit places and eat out.
On other days, we may have to abandon plans at a moment’s notice. We may have to leave a restaurant, get out of weather that Biggest has become sensitive to, or simply get him to a quiet place.
This makes travel particularly difficult, as circumstances can often mean we only have so much control.
The ability to change – to have food in our room if a restaurant is too much, to leave an activity and try another day if Biggest can’t cope – these things are essential to travel success.

SAFETY

There are certain things that Biggest needs to feel safe.
Essential to his routine is his own space – a room where he can be alone but with us very near.
Sharing a single room as a family of four would be very difficult for us, as it would completely disrupt Biggest’s sleep.
A joining room would be ideal, as it means he would have safe place to make his own and we could keep his bedtime routine identical to home.

MUSIC

Every member of the family loves music.
Daddy plays the piano, Littlest loves to dance and Biggest uses the sensory stimulation and predictable nature of well-known songs to feel calm and safe.
Wherever we go, headphones and music players come with us.

ACTIVITY

Mummy loves nothing more than lounging in the sun but Daddy and Littlest love to hike and swim and run.
And even though Mummy and Biggest may be a little more reluctant and struggle to keep up sometimes, often we enjoy these things more than we would think, once Daddy and Littlest have shown us the way.
Keeping active and exploring are essential parts of what makes travel fun for us.

STIMULATION

Like lots of children on the spectrum, Biggest can be hypersensitive and hyposensitive to sensory stimulation.
Sometimes he needs quiet. Other times, he needs light, pressure and noise to help him cope.
We take objects like his weighted blanket, sensory lights, and fiddle toys wherever we go.

ROUTINE

Routine is king. It can mean the difference between the failure and success of a trip.
When we leave home, we give up the ability to keep to many routines.
It means we often have to leave the house with lots of extra objects – special cups, blankets, certain books.
We know Biggest’s routine inside out – and we take as much of it as we can wherever we go.

EDUCATION

Until recently, Mummy was an English teacher. Daddy teaches politics. Learning is at the centre of our lives.
Travel and education are synonymous for our family. To explore, to see the world – it is all about opening your mind to new ideas and new things.
When your child craves familiarity, this can be hard to manage, but we are determined to to ensure that our children still benefit from the wonderful learning experiences that travel has to offer.

RELAXATION

Parenting is tough. Managing a child with special needs can be extremely challenging.
One of the biggest problems with travelling, especially in order to go on holiday, is that it requires a huge effort on our part to make sure things go well.
Relaxation has not been in our vocabulary for a very long time.
If there were a way to lift that pressure, even for a few hours, it would be more than a holiday; it would be a true gift.

UNDERSTANDING

Biggest’s behaviour can seem odd to others. We often get stares, sometimes even tuts and the occasional comment.
People perceive that he is misbehaving, or that we are indulging and coddling him. In fact, we are just helping him get through simple things that he finds extremely challenging.
What we really crave, wherever we go, is understanding and acceptance.
If the staff and other visitors at the places we travel to make us feel accepted, it is like a pressure has been lifted and we can truly enjoy ourselves without fear of judgement.

ADVENTURE

Littlest is a free spirit.
Sometimes she misses out on adventures because her brother gets overwhelmed.
On good days though, she gives him the confidence to try new things.
As much as we want to protect Biggest, we also want to keep trying things, so they can have adventures together.

REPETITION

Biggest likes to do the same things – over and over and over again.
He loves his tablet because the games and videos on it are always the same. They are reliable.
Often, when he is in a new place, he likes to play repetitive word games to feel safe.
Luckily the only equipment that we need for these games need is our imaginations so we take them with us wherever we go.

TIME

Time as a family. Time as a couple. Time to relax.
If we could turn back time to our last real holiday abroad, we were much younger, bright-eyed and well-rested. We drank wine on terraces and enjoyed each other’s company.
If we could capture those times again, even for a short while – that would be the ultimate holiday.

NATURE

We love to be outside. It can sometimes be a challenge, but one that is always worthwhile.
Watching our children play, grow and learn as they explore nature is one of our greatest joys in life.
Different landscapes and the new adventures to be had in them are the best parts of travelling anywhere.

More than a holiday…

I have learned to accept that the path my son is on may be different to his peers. As a family, we have grown and adapted to his needs, to the conflicting needs of both of our children. If acceptance and resilience are the gifts that autism has given me, then that is the greatest challenge; trying to balance the needs of my feisty and adventurous daughter with those of my cautious and anxious son. It is a tall order. A family holiday that achieves all the things in our mood board would be a taller order still. But I believe it is possible. And, if Mark Warner could make this dream a reality for us, they would be giving far, far more than just a holiday. They would be giving us hope that we are not alone, that there are those who would strive to help us, hope that society can and will be totally accepting of the quirks and needs of both of our children.

And you can’t put a price on that.

 

This is our entry for the Mark Warner Family Ambassador Programme competition.

 


 

Autism Family Travel Essentials

24 Comments

  1. 16th February 2017 / 10:01 pm

    Oh, Danielle you clever lady! Absolutely love this entry. I feel like a Mark Warner holiday would be perfect for your family. I can not rate the childcare highly enough and I am sure they would do a marvellous job of looking after both of your lovely children so that you and your hubby can have some time for a well-deserved break. Good luck xx

    • Someone's Mum
      16th February 2017 / 10:25 pm

      Thank you so much Amy. I wasn’t even going to apply until someone said how great they were with kids with special needs and it honestly made me think that maybe that kind of holiday is possible for us, after all. Thanks ever so much. xx

  2. 16th February 2017 / 10:01 pm

    Danielle this is amazing! You are so creative and super talented. I love it.

    • Someone's Mum
      16th February 2017 / 10:25 pm

      Ahh thanks so much Leanne. It was a labour of love in the end!

  3. 17th February 2017 / 12:03 am

    Danielle, this is absolutely amazing! I love it, I just can’t get over how perfect it is.
    I so hope you win, you completely deserve to and I know you’ll have a wonderful time 🙂
    x x

    • Someone's Mum
      17th February 2017 / 8:47 am

      Thank you so much Lucy. It has been a very busy few days getting it done but I must admit I am quite proud of it. Good luck with yours too! If only the magical space saving luggage were true, we could take all Biggest’s things with us! xx

  4. 17th February 2017 / 4:12 am

    Danielle this is incredible. Beautifully executed and a real insight into travel must haves for you xx

    • Someone's Mum
      17th February 2017 / 8:48 am

      Thanks so much Laura. It was hard work but worth it because it turned out just how I hoped! xx

  5. 17th February 2017 / 11:59 am

    This is fabulous Danielle, so clever! I really hoped you are chosen to become a Mark Warner Mum – you deserve it so much! Xxx

    • Someone's Mum
      17th February 2017 / 9:11 pm

      Thanks so much Cat. I am quite proud of the post, whatever happens!

  6. 17th February 2017 / 2:51 pm

    This is a great post! Mark Warner pick this lovely family!!!!!! I hope that your family manage to find somewhere suitable to go on holiday very soon

    • Someone's Mum
      17th February 2017 / 9:10 pm

      Thanks so much. Good luck with your entry too!

  7. 19th February 2017 / 5:12 pm

    Another lovely post, which raises awareness of your additional needs which need to be considered when going on holiday. #spectrumSunday

    • Someone's Mum
      3rd March 2017 / 9:10 am

      Thanks so much for commenting and for joining in with #SpectrumSunday

  8. 19th February 2017 / 7:58 pm

    This fills me with hope and inspiration. We have not yet been brave enough to venture further than UK seaside holidays and I hope one day soon we are brave enough to take the children on a big adventure. None of them have been on a plane and they are desperate to. Great post thanks for sharing with us #spectrumsunday

    • Someone's Mum
      3rd March 2017 / 9:12 am

      It would be so wonderful if we could have the confidence to do it – and give other autism families the confidence that there are places out their where it is possible too! Thanks for commenting 🙂

  9. 19th February 2017 / 11:52 pm

    This is a great post, and a fantastic idea 🙂
    We haven’t had a holiday for a few years now and we’re away for a week at Easter, staying with family, but your post has given me hope that we can plan for a holiday for just the 4 of us 🙂

  10. 25th February 2017 / 5:02 pm

    OMG you are so amazingly clever! Love it and really hope they pick you – if you got on well there there’s a whole load more people in this autism community who might be able to consider it 🙂 #SpectrumSunday

    • Someone's Mum
      25th February 2017 / 6:54 pm

      Thanks ever so much! It was a labour of love but I really enjoyed making it. Yes, it would be a very grateful market I think! 😊

  11. 26th February 2017 / 5:03 pm

    This is so interesting. I find traveling extremely hard. I relate to many of your son’s struggles. Unfortunately, I couldn’t view the mood board as I”m blind. I am glad it helps you though. #spectrumsunday

    • Someone's Mum
      3rd March 2017 / 9:14 am

      We made the text on it accessible so hopefully you were still able to get the ideas. Thanks so much for reading and commenting 🙂

  12. 28th February 2017 / 12:19 pm

    Wowzer, this is brilliant. I want to know how to make an interactive mood board! It would be so nice to highlight Mark Warner’s ability to include families of all shapes, sizes and needs. Good luck although I don’t think you need it

    • Someone's Mum
      3rd March 2017 / 9:15 am

      Thanks so much for such kind words and for taking the time to comment. It took a lot of time and effort and help with some proper coding! I am quite proud of it though 🙂

  13. Shelby
    13th March 2017 / 10:10 pm

    What a lovely post. I hope you manage to get to have a lovely family holiday. I have never heard of Mark Warner before, so thank you for bringing it to light. We are desperate to have a bit of fun.
    My little lad loves his Tangle toy, we have all over the place and great to keep him from flapping. We have recently brought a fiddle cube which are great too. If my little lad doesn’t have things to keep his hands busy he flaps.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *