What to Expect from the Unexpected Vacation | Organization for Autism Research

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This post originally appeared on The AWEnesty of Autism. It is re-posted here with permission.

For years, when my son Ryan was younger, vacations were tough. Really, really tough. Needless to say, breakfast with Donald Duck and hundreds of fellow Disney World tourists is not part of his regular routine. Throw in the sensory overload of Disney World that can take the most hearty sensory system down, well, like I said, vacations were often really, really tough.

So skip the sensory overloaded Disney World trip right? I mean, obviously, if it’s tough don’t do it. But guess what, a week at the beach, the lake, grandparent’s house, etc all are still not part of my son’s weekly routine. Most of the time, he can get through it, but, what kind of vacation is that for him…getting through what is supposed to be relaxing down time with friends and family.

I have learned over the years that vacations can be enjoyable for my son as long as we prepare ahead of time. New location? Let’s check out some pics on Google of things to do, things that would make him happy and not overload his sensory system. New hotel? Guess what, almost all hotel sites have photos of their property. Not only can you look at them online, you can call and ask for a room that might be away from the elevators, the lobby, etc, someplace quieter. Ask if there is a small conference room your son or daughter can chill out in when the tight quarters of the family are too much. If your son or daughter finds water soothing, find a hotel with an indoor pool where he can cool off and get a much needed reprieve (and make sure to find out how secure that pool area is so as to avoid any safety concerns). New restaurant and a picky eater? No worries if there is no grilled cheese on the menu, just call ahead and ask if they could make one or if you can carry in your son or daughter’s favorite food from somewhere else.

My son will often say, “I don’t know what to expect” so by doing what we can before we jump in the family truckster on our summer road trip and preparing him for how we think the vacation will go, certainly helps. In Disney World, he loved checking the itinerary for what was next. It helped him prepare his body and his mind for what was coming. Obviously, most of us have no crystal ball so we can’t predict what is going to happen, but, we can do our best to help prepare our kids so the unexpected isn’t quite so, well, unexpected.


About the Author

Kate HeadshotKate is a writer, autism advocate and mother of three beautiful children. Her middle son Ryan, has an autism spectrum disorder. Kate writes a blog entitled The AWEnesty of Autism, which has been featured on The Mighty, Yahoo Parenting, Autism Speaks, AutismAwareness.com, The Autism Society of America, Scary Mommy and The Huffington Post. Kate hopes that through her writing, she is sharing a real, raw and AWEnest look at how autism impacts her family, and in doing so, she may help other parents recognize that they are not alone on this autism journey. Her stories and photos are shared with permission from her incredibly AWEsome son, Ryan, who also wants people to believe that even though he is “different”, he is not ever “less”. In addition to her blog, Kate is also a Justice System Consultant for PA’s ASERT Collaborative (Autism Services, Education, Resources and Training). With her prior experience working in PA’s Juvenile Justice System and her passion for advocating for children and adults living with autism, Kate loves the opportunity to train probation officers, police officers, attorneys, judges, correctional officers and others employed in the justice system in order to raise awareness of the impact an autism diagnosis has on those that become involved in our juvenile and criminal justice systems. Kate and her family have lived in Mechanicsburg, PA for the past 20 years. When Kate is not busy advocating, “different, not less”, she enjoys reading, binging on Netflix and spending time with her family and friends. 

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