International Autism Foundation CANADA since 1994  

Service and Support for People with Autism Spectrum Disorder 

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Autism Travel

Travelling or going out with someone with Autism can be traumatic for some of our clients. Even just stepping outside their homes into their gardens might be a difficult experience. Imagine the all the stimulations that our environment present- the sounds, light, hot or cold temperature, wind factors, movements around and many other sensory stimulations. However, there comes a time in the life of a person with Autism when regular life experiences include travelling.Many parents of our clients with Autism could only dream of such days and time when they can take their children on the plane without having to rouse the other passengers. Repots about families being kicked out of a plane surface at any given moment. Many of us who have children with Autism can only feel the pain and anguish of those families who were kicked out of the plane and their tripped interrupted by the lack of deeper Autism awareness.

There are many ways to dodge the unfortunate incidents of behaviors arising during travel or the misconception and presumptions that an autistic person could disrupt a plane carrying hundreds of passengers.  

Contact the airline of your choice and the airport where you and your child will fly if they have assistance to individals with Autism

Our parent members also shared ideas of taking a child several times a week to the airport, months prior to the actual trip to prepare the child. Some parents had pictures of airplanes, busy airports and line-ups, crowd and even washrooms in airports.

It may be recommended to travel by plane nearby, just to accustom your child to plane trips. If you live in Vancouver, a plane trip to Edmonton might be a good start.

Travelling by Sea

Autism friendly ships are not many. There are currently two major cruise lines that openly assist individuals with Autism and their families. Private arrangements may be made with those cruiselines who do not advertise Autism assistance as they might have some available service.  Check with other cruise lines for any policy in favor of your child’s disabilities.

During Sea Travel

Arrange for early or late disembarkation to avoid large crowds.

Inside the ship, familiarize your group with the decks and any other areas that might be of interest to your child.

If lining up at the buffet will be an issue, arrange for your group to take turns taking food while one stays with the child with Autism.

If the child can manage lining up but might exhibit some behaviors ask help from a crew member if you’re not able to figure out the situation on your own.

Arrange for dining room seating which will help calm your child.

Arrange to have your meals delivered to your cabin if the ship dining area may be too stimulating for your child.

Arrive early in the ship’s theatre. Scout for a good seat and do everything you can to reserve that seat. If you have some people in your group who can fill those seats early, make it so and have a good comfortably placed seat for your child with Autism.

Most cruise lines have disabilities seats in theatres. You might want to occupy those seats if you are early.

During Land Excursions

Cruise ships offer land excursions when they dock on ports. Arrange with excursion staff for a proper disembarkation for your child. If the ship happen not to offer this service then try to get in line first.

Cruise lines that offer to be Autism friendly are highly recommended because chances are they already have good protocols in place for someone with Autism.

Where to travel

For parents or caregivers travelling with a child with Autism for the first time, select a travel destination that is near your home.  Two or three hours flight might be too much for a chid with Autism but it’s really your decision. You want the child to get used to the idea of airplanes or ships, or trains, buses, ferry boats or river cruises so you might not be so focused on what to see as opposed to how to get there with the most enjoyable experience for you and your child.For people with Autism, the process of travelling is a journey in itself, both for the child and the adults who care for them. Good Luck