Today is World Autism Awareness Day and we wanted to share some tips and strategies for traveling with kids on the Autism spectrum. Nicole Thibault shares her personal story and learnings to encourage families that feel that travel isn’t possible or is just too hard. Learn about some of the resorts, theme parks, and brands that have been certified to support guests on the Autism spectrum.
ON THE PODCAST
00:32 – Talking with Tamara traveling with special needs
05:10 – Talking with Nicole
09:25 – Advice on whether or not to travel
13:40 – Certified destinations around the world
14:30 – What age to go
15:58 – Flying with kids on the Autism spectrum
18:30 – Tips for visiting uncertified locations
20:34 – My Villa Key
22:30 – Theme parks
28:16 – Cruising
32:40 – Preparing your child
35:11 – Final tips
36:25 – Favorite Travel Gear
ABOUT NICOLE THIBAULT
When Nicole Thibault opened her travel agency, Magical Storybook Travels, in 2015, she knew she wanted to create a travel business that catered to ALL families, including those with Autism and other Special Needs. She takes great pride in assisting families with their vacations, especially those who thought that they might not be able to travel with their child with Autism.
In addition to Magical Storybook Travels, Nicole also owns Spectrum Travel Social Story Videos, a production company that creates destination-specific travel videos that help children with Autism and anxiety get acclimated to a destination prior to travel. These videos greatly reduce the anxiety and fear for a child with Autism about traveling to an unknown destination.
Follow Nicole on Instagram.
TIPS FOR TRAVELING WITH AUTISM
- If you are thinking about taking a vacation but have concerns regarding traveling with a child or adult with Autism, here are some sites that may answer some of your questions; IBCCES which is a company that partners with destination to provide training to employees to create accommodation for families that are on the spectrum, and Autism Travel is a site that will list all of the destinations that have been through the training.
- The best part of these two sites is that the company really looks at these destinations through the eyes of someone with autism. They make sure that 85% of the staff at each location has been through the training. They will also supply some planning tools on their site to help families.
- The best place to start is to take small trips at first. Then progressing to longer times away from home. Depending on progress and comfort, you could try plane trips to take vacations further away.
- Autism Travel is a site you can count on to know that each destination listed has employees that have been through training and that they will be ready for you family.
- Most kids are diagnosed around the age of two or three. With that being said you should wait a couple years for your first vacation. In those couple years your child will have some therapy under their belt and may better be able to handle the situation.
- Flights may be difficult, especially for the first time. TSA Cares has a hot line that if you call them and give them a heads up on flights at least 72 hours before, they will have someone meet you outside security that will walk you through security so you won’t need to wait through the regular 20-30 minute line they will take you through a seperate area to go through security.
- If you need to travel to a location that is not a certified destination. You may want to think about going on the hotel’s website where you will be staying, and show your child pictures of the lobby, room, even the outside of the hotel. With those pictures you can create a social story about how this is where you will be staying. Maybe even talking about how long you will be there. This can give your child a sense of calm and ease about the trip.
- My Villa Key is a certified Orlando Vacation site with IBCCES where you can stay in a villa of your own. They make sure to use cleaning supplies that are not to strong smelling. The walls are painted in muted tones so there is nothing too bright that could cause sensory overload. The doors are equipped with an alarm system so that if you child is a runner you will know when they open the door. There is also a lock on the gate at the pool so that you know they will not be able to get in there without your supervision or even out before you are with them to leave.
- Prepare your family if you are planning on going to a large Theme Park like Disney. Have a talk with everyone explaining where you are going what you will see. Maybe showing pictures of the park and the rides that are there.
- Do some research on accommodations the park may offer for children or adults with disabilities. You may also want to put together a bag with items that will help your child with any sensory issues. You could have noise canceling headphones, little toys, hand sanitizer, scented lip balm. Anything that will help your child get through any unexpected issues.
- Royal Caribbean was great with helping out anyway they could to make Nicole and her family’s cruising experience the best.
- Teaching your kids to be friendly to all kids no matter if they are in a wheelchair, have Autism or even just shy can make a big difference in social situations.
- Don’t be afraid to take a chance on traveling!
FAVORITE TRAVEL GEAR
Nicole loves to be comfortable; wearing shorts, t-shirts, sandals. She also like to wear her Lands’ End fleece for when she gets cold. Eagle Creek makes a backpack that you can roll up that Nicole loves to use on her travels.
MENTIONED ON THE PODCAST
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