Taking a Trip with a Child with Autism

Have you ever wondered what it is like to travel with an autistic child? We were blessed with a family trip to Dallas this weekend. An overnighter! My Mom has been working out of town for too long and missed her grandbaby, so we met up with her for a weekend of eventfulness. Here is a breakdown of our action packed weekend.  Is it different from a “typical” family experience? I don’t know, I’ve never had a typical family. You’ll have to tell me.

1. Two days before leaving, meticulously decide as a family what to do on your trip. Decide to visit the Grapevine Mills Mall. Go over all options with Child. Child decides that he wants to visit the children’s aquarium, but is definitely not interested in Legoland. Respect Child’s choices.

2. Child wakes you up 5 times the night before the trip.

3. On the day of your trip, leave home at 8:30. Realize that Child does not eat breakfast until 10:30 every day.

4. Stop at a gas station at 10:30 to acquire breakfast for Child. Screaming and crying ensues because said breakfast burns Child’s lip, which he constantly chews into shreds for no apparent reason. Child does not eat breakfast.

5. Arrive at the mall. Child’s communication abilities instantly diminish to 50% capacity due to over stimulation. Expect to constantly repeat the phrase, “Use your words.”

6. Stand in line for children’s aquarium for 10 minutes. Before buying tickets, Child informs you that he is hungry.

7. Find food court. Give Child food.

8. Return to aquarium. Stand in line for 5 minutes. Child informs you that he has made a mistake. He would really prefer Legoland over the aquarium.

9. Go to Legoland.

10. Stand in line at Legoland for 20 minutes. Legoland employee informs you that they are currently selling tickets to get in 5 hours from now.

11. Buy combo tickets for Legoland and aquarium.

12. Stop outside of Legoland and frantically dig in your purse for anti-anxiety medication. Realize you left it at home.

13. Return to aquarium. All family members thoroughly enjoy the experience.

14. Shop at the mall. Child insists that we must always walk on ramps, never stairs. There are stairs everywhere. Walk on ramps.

15. Child informs you, mostly with grunts and gestures, that his legs are achy and the shopping must cease immediately. Communication is now at roughly 25%.

16. Decide that Child cannot remain at mall long enough to experience Legoland at your designated ticket time.

17. Stand in line at Legoland for 15 minutes. Change ticket time to the following day. The only time available is 12:45…naptime. Take available ticket time.

18. Endure embarrassing meltdowns while getting Tired Child to car. Incite additional meltdown by forgetting the Ramp Rule and taking stairs.

19. Check into hotel room. Let Child swim. Swimming is seriously the BEST activity for calming Child’s overstimulated sensory system. Watch the anxiety melt off Child. Vocabulary resumes full capacity.

20. Lament once again the absence of anti-anxiety medication as you contemplate going to Dave and Buster’s for dinner.

21. Stick with the plan. Go to Dave and Buster’s. Have dinner. Child eats approximately 3 bites. You are satisfied.

22. Play games at Dave and Buster’s. Be amazed that Child is still functional because your own sensory system is wildly overloaded. Everyone has tons of fun.

23. Child chooses prize for the tickets your family earned gaming. He really wants the purple Minion from Despicable Me 2, but doesn’t have quite enough tickets. Child settles for Raphael from TMNT with little pouting and much gratitude. Be proud of his maturity.

24. Return to hotel 2 hours after Child’s bedtime.

25. Deposit Child in Grammy’s room and kiss him goodnight.

26. Close door to your adjoining room and do a happy dance because you get to sleep through the night!

27. Fall face-first into bed. Fall asleep immediately.

28. Ten minutes later, Child appears and announces that he is sleeping with you.

29. Toss and turn relentlessly until Child realizes that three really is a crowd and returns to Grammy’s bed.

30. Sleep through the blessed night.

31. Remain in hotel for the morning because monsoon has arrived in Dallas. Vow never to leave anti-anxiety medication at home again.

32. Arrive at Legoland at your designated ticket time.

33. Walk aimlessly around Legoland not touching or participating in anything. Realize Child is just getting his bearings.

34. Child plays on playground. Relax on bench and remember when you would have been worried he’d hurt someone. Be thankful for and proud of his progress.

35. Child makes plans to build a car to race on ramps. Realize you have the mechanical ability of a chimp and allow Dad to build cars with Child.

36. The family wants to see a 4D film at Legoland. Child vehemently protests. Remind Child that this is the family’s vaction, not his vacation.

38. See 4D film. Child does well. Be proud that he respected the wants of the group, even if reluctantly.

39. The family wants to ride the Save the Princess Ride. Child vehemently protests. Remind Child that this is the family’s vaction, not his vacation. Remember that repetition is good.

40. Ride Save the Princess Ride. Shoot lots of bad guys.

41. Leave Legoland and head for the last stop of the trip. The Rainforest Cafe.

42. Child loves the animated animals all around the Cafe and pretends to gain creature powers. Coolest place to eat ever. Child eats one bite. He has a tummy ache. Trips always mess with his stomach.

43. Say goodbye to Dallas and head home.

44. Put Child to bed. Breathe.

45. Take a hot bath, wonder if you’ll ever be ready for Disney World, and prepare to homeschool Child tomorrow.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. John T Smith IV
    Aug 17, 2014 @ 21:10:17

    You’ve had an extraordinary weekend and I’ll pray for rest for your soul.

    Reply

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