Road trips with children can be difficult, when they have an Autism Spectrum Disorder it can sometimes seem nearly impossible. Traveling with my son, who is has high functioning Autism, has tested my patience and zapped what little energy I had until I started making some changes. Try some of these ideas to make road trips smoother.
Keep the Trip Comfortable
Look back at some other road trips and see what has and hasn’t worked well for your child. If there a certain time of day when they can tolerate travel? For my son, early mornings have been the best time to leave before he gets fixated on an activity in the house. For other children it, they may do better after being awake, having a full breakfast, and a chance to be a little active. Also be sure to give them enough space from siblings in the car.
Stock up the Car
Have some favorite toys or games available for your child in the car. You can bring something small, like a favorite toy train, or create a “travel bag” stocked up with new but inexpensive toys that will keep your child’s attention. For my son we picked up a handful of Matchbox cars handing them out one by one to keep him interested. Other children may prefer music. MP3 players can often be found for less than $30 now and you can designate one for the car and fill it with favorite songs.
Planning Rest Breaks
If your child gets antsy sitting in one spot like mine does, you will want to be sure to plan a lot of rest breaks along the way. Before you leave find out if there are any particular restaurants or attractions on the way they would want to stop at to give them something to look forward to during the drive. Let them have a printout of a map so that they can follow along and see when you will be stopping next.
For my family, we make stops every hour to hour and a half but yours might be more or less depending on your child. Watch their body language and especially during the beginning of your trip try to stop before they start getting riled up so that they know rests will be regular. This may help relieve some of their anxiety.
Bathroom stops on the road are always the most difficult for us because the loud, and sometimes uncleanly public restrooms intimidate my son and he will often refuse to use them. If your child won’t agree to use the bathroom available and they are not about to wet their pants, try not to push the issue and try again at the next stop. The restrooms that usually work best for us are the ones in smaller cafes or town visitor centers because they are often single stall allowing for privacy. One time we ended up using the restroom inside a hotel that we passed and that was probably the cleanest, quietest one we saw the whole trip.