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Why would anybody want to take a vacation ?

Beaches Negril, Evening - CropHaving previously asked some of the practical questions about taking a vacation (BIG Questions when planning a vacation), it seems like a good idea to ask an even more fundamental question. Why would you want to take a vacation ? And, are the reasons different for our families ?

Reasons for wanting to take a vacation are as varied as the families taking them. There are, however, some reasons that come up frequently.

R&R. That’s a big one for any family these days. It is an even bigger reason for families with a member on the spectrum. Think about it. For typical families, the modern lifestyle is on-the-go/multi-tasking/constant-stress. And they have it easy, don’t they ? They don’t have to deal with doctor or therapist appointments with anything like the frequency that we do. They don’t have to deal with PPT struggles or, worse, due process.

A study by Brigham Young University found that stress in parents of children with autism measured at the same level as that of combat soldiers !

We need our R&R more than most. Actually our need is more like R&R&R (Respite, if that isn’t obvious). In order to get that extra “R”, think about the support that you may need and try something like, perhaps, having some extended family members come with you.

By the way, wouldn’t it be cool if the insurance company covered the cost as “stress relief therapy” ? We think so but absolutely can’t find a single insurance company that agrees ! If you ever find one, let us know and we’ll tell the world.


New Experiences. Many people want to experience things on their vacation that are new, different and memorable. Of course, for some of our kids, “new” is their biggest challenge.


The art here is to try to leverage the familiar. What we mean by that is to incorporate things that can be made to feel familiar. This could be to take your child’s pillow, or other bedding, so that feel and smell are familiar. It might mean trying to ensure that a rental car is similar to your car at home.  This list can be as long as you need to make it. Once you have those things figured, you have a basis from which to, gently, try something new. You might want to look at our previous post Recreation Therapy. To summarize that, look for places with lots of leisure activities so that your child can, safely, sample some new activities. If your child finds just one new activity that they enjoy and master, you’ll have a truly memorable experience too.

New experiences don’t have to be limited to leisure pursuits to be successful. Margalit Francus of Autistic Globetrotting tells the story of how her son was struggling to understand the coursework on Mayas and Aztecs at school and that this inspired the family to actually go and see for themselves and not just look at the textbooks.  The result of the trip was that it actually helped her autistic son to connect with the subject.

Family Bonding Time.  Again, the typical family finds themselves all over the place during the rest of their 24/7 lifestyle with few opportunities for quality time together. And again, that applies more to us than to most. Here is yet another reason for looking to travel with extended family or with friends that you don’t, often enough, get to spend time with.


Reasons why not ? There are some that come up for families living with autism that are specific. Here are the two most common.

Not wanting to share your diagnosis.  Let’s quote Margalit again. Her, informal, study says that this may be the biggest single reason that parents of children with autism are reluctant to travel. Of course, we understand and sympathize with this reluctance. On the other hand, don’t we share that diagnosis with every new teacher, social worker, therapist, etc. ? Think of, say, hotel guest services as if they were a new therapist (but without the 20-page questionnaire). They are there to help you just as much as all of those others. Additionally, now that we are 1 in 88 (or 1 in 50, depending upon which study), you’ll probably find that you end up speaking to somebody that has heard of autism and that wants to know how they can do their part to help you.

Embarrassed by meltdowns. Most of us still are, even when we try to overcome that. Here’s the point with this. A meltdown at the mall or supermarket is no less embarrassing than it will be on vacation. If meltdowns are an issue, you already live with it and it would be a pity to let it stop you from enjoying the benefits of a vacation.  You might want to consider an Autism Awareness T-shirt or similar since that, kind of, gives part of the message in subtle way. For our part, we had matching tees printed with the message “Autism Affects 1 in 88”. We didn’t hear a single “tut” !


These are some of the more common why’s and why not’s. What are yours ? We would love to hear from you with your take on either or both.

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