Thursday, February 14, 2013

Autism & Sensory Disorders and Family Travel

This week we are excited to share an article by Adam, a guest blogger who worked closely with Bonnie Arnwine, a specialist in the field of Autism and Sensory Disorders to provide the outstanding article below that offers valuable insight and information for parents traveling with children who may struggle with these issues. 
Surviving Long Car Rides with Autism & Sensory Disorders

It’s bad enough to have kids asking when you will get to your destination when they are just being impatient, but what if that child has a sensory disorder or something that can turn a boring ride into a sensory nightmare?  Here are a few ways you can help to prevent, soothe and avoid a meltdown on long road trips by turning your car into a mini calm down room. 

Tactile Issues

Seatbelts can rub against your skin and stitching can be scratchy.  Although the scratchy feeling can be annoying for a child without Autism, one who has sensory disorders with touch won’t be able to find a way to relax because of the sensation.  For them a small thread can feel like a giant nail scraping against them and stop them from being able to relax.  One thing you can do is to place a simple sheep skin cover over the offending area.  You can also try a weighted compression vest for your child.  The vest will help your child feel calmer like they are getting a big hug and offset the specific pressure points of the seat belt. 

Sound Issues

Normal outside sounds might not bug you to the point where you cannot sleep, but even two people talking in the front or the next row over on an airplane can be extremely annoying for kids with Autism and sensory disorders.  Most family members will want to talk or listen to music during a drive.  To give your child with autism a sound break you can bring along noise cancelling earmuffs or bring some headphones with a meditation or relaxation cd.  If you combine this with some comfortable dark sunglasses or a soft, seamless and smooth eye mask, your child may be able to calm down and fall asleep with no outside noises or light to bother them. 

Smells and Scent Issues

When you are driving through the country or by farms, scents can come into your vehicle which could be upsetting.  If you combine them with noises or other things that can cause meltdowns, your child could go from mildly agitated to a full blown tantrum.  Two options you can use are to test which scents can help to calm your child and see if you can find a light and matching scent with an air freshener that plugs into the air vent.  This way when you need to add the calming scent like Vanilla or Lavender to the car, you can attach the scent to the vents and create a calming atmosphere.  When the tantrum has ended, you can then remove the scent and return back to normal.  Two other options are to find a scented toy or pillow like lavender scented Slumber Friends and as your child cuddles with it they’ll have the relaxing smell that helps them feel calm.  Lastly you can find calming scents and place one in the back of the car that will slowly release so you have a constant flow of calming scents for your child during the entire trip. 

Just like you would create a calm down room at home for your child that they know they can use to relax, you can try to create this same atmosphere for your child for long car rides to help soothe and calm tantrums before they start.  Think about how to incorporate calming scents, sounds and feelings into the trip and also how you can help to prevent any scratching or other feelings that may affect your child. You may also want to find a pair of kids pajamas without seams, tags or anything that could irritate your child’s skin. By turning their seat into a mini version of a calm down room, surviving the long car ride can become much easier and everyone can enjoy getting to your destination. 

About the Author: Adam has been blogging for roughly a decade. He loves to help people find everything from great deals on travel, to party planning as well as how to find easy ways to prepare hard to cook meals!

This article was fact-checked by Bonnie Arnwine of National Autism Resources Bonnie, is the founder of National Autism Resources, a leading place for parents, family and friends of people with Autism to find affordable, hand selected products for education, play and therapy as well as articles from experts on Autism, ADHD and Sensory Disorders.

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