Vacationing with Children on the Autism Spectrum

It’s that time of year for vacations! It is my pleasure to introduce Sean Morris, a dad/writer who is my guest writer for this topic. He brings personal experience to his advice. Thanks, Sean, for joining Positively Atypical! 

 Summer break is the time for travel and taking vacations with your loved ones, but preparing to leave home with children can be overwhelming at times, and if you have a child on the autism spectrum, you may be facing a different set of challenges than with your other children. From packing the right items to making sure your accommodations are safe, there’s a lot to think about.

 

It can be hard to know where to start, but the best way is to sit down and make a list, beginning with your child’s specific needs. Will she need a quiet place to wind down in an otherwise crowded spot like an amusement park? Will there be issues with using public bathrooms? Write down everything you can think of and ask your partner for help so you don’t miss a thing, then start listing what you’ll need to pack and who you’ll need to contact.

 

If you’ll be staying in a hotel or with family members, call ahead and make sure your family can sleep on the ground floor or in a room without a balcony (if your child wanders). If there will be a pool or hot tub present, make sure the facility is equipped with a locked door or gate that your child can’t access.

 

Once you know where you’ll be staying, check online for maps and detailed photographs so you–and your child–will know what to expect. Talk to them about the trip and show them photos well before you leave so they can get acquainted with where they’ll be sleeping. It’s also helpful when planning family outings, so you’ll know what restaurants and activities are nearby.

 

If possible, bring your child’s pillows and blankets from home to re-create their own bed. Adequate rest is important for children of all ages, so whatever you can do to make the trip more comfortable for your loved one is worth it, even if it means packing yet another bag. Ask hotel staff if the rooms will have door locks that are out of your child’s reach; it’s a good idea to pack a bell or other noisy item that you can hang on the door handle to alert you if your child decides to check out the hotel on their own.

 

If your family will be flying, it’s a good idea to have an ID made for your child to keep in his or her backpack, and take a picture of them in their traveling clothes before you leave; that way, if you get separated in the crowded airport, you’ll have a recent photo that shows exactly what they look like. Contact your child’s doctor about obtaining a letter from them that states exactly what your child’s condition is in case you need to show airport security.

 

Do some research on local restaurants and eateries that will be on your driving route and make sure you’ll be able to find something that caters to your child’s needs, especially if they require a special diet–such as gluten-free–or if they have allergies.

 

If you’ll be staying with friends or family, be sure to contact them well before your trip and let them know what your child will need during the stay. It’s important to be clear about your needs before you arrive so that the homeowners can make their house as safe as possible, including making sure all doors and windows are lockable and that there will be no issues with any pets.

 

Family trips can be a wonderful time to bond and have fun, and with a little bit of planning and preparation, you can ensure that your child is safe, healthy, and happy during your vacation.

 

Sean Morris is a former social worker turned stay-at-home dad. He knows what it’s like to juggle family and career. He did it for years until deciding to become a stay-at-home dad after the birth of his son. Though he loved his career in social work, he has found this additional time with his kids to be the most rewarding experience of his life. He began writing for LearnFit.org to share his experiences and to help guide anyone struggling to find the best path for their life, career, and/or family.

Family Game time builds more than good memories

Playing board games with your kids are wonderful tools for many reasons. Aside from building wonderful memories, sharing jokes and teaching kids the all important lesson of how to win or lose gracefully, many board games are great tools for building executive function skills. 

Here, from Understood.com are the top board games for building executive function, that all important region of the brain that helps us plan, problem solve, execute and implement complex planning. 

PB&&&&Eight fun games that improve your child’s executive function

What do young children need most in preschool?

  

  There is a burgeoning over-emphasis on learning academics at the youngest of ages. Both parents and preschools accept the myth of academic success begins with early learning (perhaps a recent memory of parents who may still be paying off student loans) 

But what do very young children really need to learn? Neuroscience gives us answers. Self regulation, socialization, empathy, creative play and curiosity about the world are important underpinnings to future learning. Numbers and letters are largely irrelevant factors to success in academics according to most early childhood research. The brain develops first through exploration of the sensory world. Touching, feeling, moving are primary modes of learning. Language development happens most rigorously through self experience, talking about what the small child is experiencing, seeing, feeling. This is done largely though play. “Play,” noted Jean Piaget, the seminal early childhood expert, “is child’s work.” 

Armed with a solid sense of self, social interest, self regulation, creative curiosity,  and a zest for learning about the world are the tools that best equip a small child to move forward successfully in the elementary school world. 

Read more about this:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2015/11/24/how-twisted-early-childhood-education-has-become-from-a-child-development-expert/

Unrecognized PTSD in Parents

It’s true. I see it often. Parents come in to my office to set up testing for their child. I ask them about the developmental history. We discuss the birth and then I see it. Eyes go wide open. Rapid blinking. Tears well up. Faces go pale. Throat constricts. Bodies go rigid.  This is not an emotional response to describing the meaningful event in their life. This is post traumatic stress disorder, otherwise known as PTSD. 

Giving birth to a child is preceded by great anticipation and excitement but when something goes wrong, be it by prematurity, labor issues, birth trauma, or a newborn ending up in the NICU for a myriad of reasons, parents often go into a traumatic paralysis. Outwardly they may function as highly competent but later, after the crisis, a pattern of over-reactivity, middle of the night panic, flashbacks and seemingly out of the blue crying spells can persist. This is not postpartum depression, as it can last for years. It has been largely unrecognized that parents of babies who fight for the lives endure the type of stress that turns into PTSD. 

WHAT TO DO?

1. Seek help. There are therapists who specialize in PTSD. While there are few who specialize in PTSD parents of children because this syndrome has been largely unrecognized, a clinician with training in PTSD who is flexible can adapt. There are mind-body clinicians in sensorimotor psychotherapy which can be helpful. 

2. Advocate for yourself. Do not allow yourself to be patronized or placed in a generic category of female with depression. Explain the issue. Learn more. You will need to educate the therapist. 

3. Use your community for support and resources. Find a group who have similar children (there are groups for everything). Hearing about others’ experienced will help quell the middle of night panic or the over-reactivity of your body based emotional responses. 

4. Self care: you may not remember this but when your baby was in crisis (or continues to be in crisis), you may not have taken adequate care of yourself. While you can’t go back in time, you can do it now. Massage, acupuncture, long walks outside or an active sport, or involvement in a passion that you love boost oxytocin and endorphins, which will aid in being super defense against those negative moments. 

For more info, read on:

http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/8485332

http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/8485332

Why aren’t the kids playing? 

  
Kids don’t play anymore. It’s no secret that playing has been replaced by longer hours of homework and passive screen time. Do we have to sacrifice the previous years of childhood in order to maintain a high level of academic success? 

Here is what we know now. And if we know it, why aren’t kids in the US playing more? 

Read on: http://ww2.kqed.org/mindshift/2015/10/07/if-we-know-play-based-learning-works-why-dont-we-do-it/