So… what do you get when you cross a small Ford Focus, three children (one of which likes her music LOUD), a 125+ lb. Alaskan Malamute in heat, a child with Autism and Sensory Processing issues, and a last-minute four-hour road trip? Road trip FAIL.
At least I can laugh about it now. Let’s hope my son can, too!
You see, I knew better. I KNOW better. I post daily inspiring tips, quotes, and updates on Facebook and Twitter about how to prepare for doing virtually ANYTHING with your Autistic child. Yet, here I was – frenzied, overbooked, and trying to leave town at the last minute – totally unprepared.
The problem? I didn’t arm him with any necessary tools or supports against the boredom of a long trip, his sister’s loud music, being cramped and unable to stretch out when his body needed it, the lack of available favorite snacks and drinks on the road, the chaos of a hotel room, and the absence of a schedule while there.
The result? A child that screamed, threw toys around, harassed the dog, twisted himself up in his seat belt, and repeatedly kicked the back of the driver’s seat while I was trying to safely operate our vehicle. In the hotel he was hyper, loud, and severely discombobulated when it came to what he expected would happen while we were there.
What my daughter, her friend and I saw and were annoyed by, of course, can’t possibly compare to the discomfort, frustration, and confusion he experienced from being thrust into this situation unarmed. Oh, and when you ask your child if they want to bring their favorite supports and they say “no” – PACK THEM ANYWAY! They don’t know that they will need them!
So here’s a look back at what I could have done right (and will do next time!):
- Noise blocking headphones for the trip
- Personal audio headphones for his DSi or my laptop
- Approved snacks and drinks that won’t contribute to hyperactivity and digestive issues
- A visual schedule of what to expect once we arrived and during our stay
- A few sensory “fidget” items for him to calm himself with
- My Calmer By Nature DVD to play at the hotel at night for winding down
- Frequent stops to get out and stretch
Weigh it out
I was so concerned with getting on the road on time that I did not prepare. How long would it really have taken for me to pack additional items and take the time to talk to him about what was happening? How much time would it have added to our trip to make a few more stops? I’m sure the dog would have appreciated it, too!
For a few extra minutes of planning and preparing, I could have avoided frustration for all of us during this trip. LESSON LEARNED!