It may be a little ambitious, right now, to plan a vacation on Mars.
We do, however, plan smaller projects every day. Even something simple like going to the grocery store (on a school day – so that it’s just you) requires a plan. We call that plan a shopping list.
As with any project, the old saying still applies; “if you fail to plan, then you are planning to fail.”
While landing even the first person on Mars is a huge project that will need a lot of planning (it is, very literally, rocket science), a vacation with your special needs child is a project that will also benefit from good planning.
Why do vacations with autistic children need better planning than those with typically developing children? There are two main reasons.
First, with special needs vacations, there are extra factors that need to be taken into account. There are the things that your child must have like favorite toys, games, objects, activities etc. There are also things that you will want to avoid. There may be some sensory inputs that could be difficult and some transitions that you will want to ease. (See our prior post on unwanted transitions.)
Secondly “things happen”. No matter how good the original plan, something can crop up that was not intended. Typically developing families can adjust “on the fly”. Successful special needs travel requires at least some contingency plans in order to “expect the unexpected”.
Let’s illustrate that second point. A delayed flight is an example of a “thing” that can happen. For a typically developing family, this is a nuisance but they’ll cope. You will do better if you have a contingency plan. Research the airport. Most airports have site maps available online but a visit to the airport, if possible, may be even better. Find out what is available for food and drink. Look for the location of any potential quieter spots. Are there any recreational activities available? If your flight is on time, you didn’t need this contingency plan. If it is delayed, it could make things so much better than having no plan.
Don’t forget to research the airport for your return flight. The exact same reasoning applies to your flight home.
What if you absolutely could only get where you want to go by taking connecting flights? There is a chance that your second flight could be delayed even if the first was on time. Or, worse than that, your first flight gets delayed and you miss the second flight. Either way, research the intermediate airport and have a contingency plan for that.
Now you’re convinced that you need some good planning, how do you go about that? What needs to go into the plan? We’ll cover this over the next few posts – that’s our plan for right now!