Autism IS NOT a disability. Autism IS a different ability.
Of course, if you say that to the Department of Social Services in your state, or to your school district or even to your insurance company, you may be turned down for services because “we only provide for people with disabilities”. Sometimes we have to accept that label just to get our kids the services that they need.
Here is some good news. When it comes to special needs vacations, you aren’t forced to accept the disability label. Indeed, you can recognize the different ability label and work with it in planning. Our children are unique, special and wonderful and we can say so!
For everyday life, the problem is that the different ability isn’t compatible with a world that was designed for, and built by, the neurotypical. That is why we need those services for them. When planning your special needs travel, take as much account of your child’s abilities as you do of their needs.
Take a look at your child’s fixed interests. In daily life, spending hours on one thing may present problems. You have things that you need to get done. On vacation, you have more time at your disposal. You can afford to spend time on things that fascinate your child without having to tear them away.
What thing(s) does your child particularly like? If it is animals, check to see if there is a zoo, however small, near your destination hotel. If it is only specific animals, check with that zoo to see if they have those animals. If your child likes to draw or color, do they like art galleries and/or museums? If that is the case, check to see what is nearby your hotel.
Whatever your child’s likes and fascinations are, research opportunities to satisfy those desires. Since your child is unique, you’ll find some unique answers.
If you can find the right activities for your child you may even get the chance to use them for a “first this and then that” strategy. “First visit your aging uncle and then go to the pool”. (Amend as needed. It isn’t compulsory to visit aging uncles.)
One further, and obvious, example is that many kids on the spectrum love water. Is there a pool at your hotel? Is it suitable? That is not just a question of avoiding outdoor pools in Minnesota during February! Is the pool rectangular or free-form? As much as free-form is liked by the neurotypical world, some kids need those straight lines in order to define the boundary between what is “pool” and what is “not pool”. Is the hotel near a beach or a lake? Does your child like those or is it just the pool?
Let’s give a shout out. If you child is interested in space and you are visiting Florida, do go to the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. Our friends there have done an amazing job. Over 95% of their staff have undertaken training for assisting guests with autism and passed their test. With our help, they’ve also prepared a wonderful Visitor Guide that gives you all of the information that you’ll need for a successful visit. Click: KSCVC Visitor Guide to see the Guide. Click here to see their website.