Aspergers/Autism travel tips

If you are reading this, then like me you are somewhere on the PDD spectrum or perhaps have a relative or friend who is. Traveling with autism is a very real challenge. I mean just to begin with the TSA  hates us, but there are ways to make this a little easier.

First off I try never to travel alone because travel, especially air travel, brings out all the worst in me but as an adult and an occasional business traveler this is not always practicable. So for when I am traveling alone here is my regime.

I try to avoid airplanes but there are places I can’t drive and trains don’t go so I am including air travel in these tips even though I know most autistics try to avoid them.

To begin with -educate yourself on current TSA rules and procedures. They have a cool website that actually does help. http://www.tsa.gov/travelers/index.shtm

Follow those rules! If flying- take off your shoes, have the laptop out, sort out the metal stuff. The earlier you can do this the better. I actually bag all my metal things in a ziplock and put it in my carry on. Saves time.

Next, I always call ahead and tell everyone I’ll have to deal with that I am autistic. I call the airport, I call the local TSA agent, I call my rental car agent, I call my hotel, or the cruise director. I have found that doing this can be very helpful and that I sometimes even get some travel perks out of this. (A better more private room, a safer car with GPS, etc) And if I have to do this cold and in person I usually end up in a room being searched because I get tongue-tied and scared.

After that I am a real fan of awareness wear. You can buy it in a lot of places but so far http://www.cafepress.com seems to have the best selection. I have several tee shirts that I wear, especially when flying, that read “Warning: this person is autistic and may not respond normally to verbal commands or social stimuli.” These work great and usually keep me from getting hassled at security checkpoints. I also wear a med alert bracelet stating I am autistic. Some places I’ve visited actually offer armbands or bracelets to let staff know about my “disability”, I always ask for one and then wear it.

I make a point of also carrying some kind of comfort totem. I used to carry my favorite stuffed animal but this caused more problems than one might believe possible with the TSA (An adult with a stuffed kitty?) so now I carry smaller and more common things, a coin my adopted father gave me, a photo of my cats, that sort of thing. When I feel a meltdown coming on I have those to anchor me.

And since one of my forms of stimming includes stroking fuzzy things, I try to wear something fuzzy and seasonally appropriate…fuzzy fleece socks are a favorite…pink eyelash socks may be eccentric but they do not set off alarms like stuffed toys do. I also try to pack the same things and follow the same rituals and routines each time. Listening to specific “travel” music or bringing along a book by designated “travel” authors help me a lot. And I usually cram my bag full of small distractions since I get bored easily. At this point adult “toys”, playing cards, writing tools, books, e-reader, mp3 player or portable DVD player (especially in noisy environments) , and puzzle books are good.

Finally, I carry a cellphone with all my emergency numbers on speed dial. My partner/guardian, psychiatrist, best friend, and so on are all there just a button away.

And yes, I am AS/HFA – that means I am high-functioning, if you have a child who is farther along the spectrum (Kanner’s classic autism, or more Aspie than I am…some of this will help you and some of it will not.

Either way, I hope you will try to travel and/or expose your autistic child to travel. It can be very rewarding, too. Ask my husband about my first dolphin swim! Getting there was hell for him and me but then I never ever wanted to leave! Who knows what you may find.

For more info, try http://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/community-connections/traveling-tips-individuals-autism-and-their-families and here is another good one, http://www.sath.org/index.php?sec=768&id=2371

 

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4 Comments

  1. Elaine

     /  November 17, 2011

    Great stuff. Very helpful for adult autist who rarely get any help at all. Your kids will grow up, people. I DID.

    Reply
  2. Dan

     /  November 17, 2011

    Thank you. Now travelling with my sister will be a lot easier.

    Reply
  3. Beth Hawley

     /  October 21, 2012

    Thank you! My husband is getting ready to make his first business trip to Mexico for his company. He has only flown once before and has never been out of the country. It is difficult to find information for adults with AS and traveling. I really appreciate this information!

    Reply

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