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Have a Stress-Less Vacation 

For students on the Autism spectrum and their caregivers, school holidays aren’t all they are cracked up to be.

Children on the Autism spectrum are sensitive to changes in routine and holidays from school can be very stressful. What is intended to be a time of reprieve and relaxation quickly devolves into a time of chaos, stress, and tears. By the time break is over, it is a challenge to re-establish the routine of getting out of bed, getting ready for school, and completing the school day – business as usual.

Decisions of the school system are out of your control, but here are some ways to get through the break a little easier.

Keep the routine going

  • Maintain all normal daily routines: bedtime, rising time, breakfast foods, bathtime, etc.
  • Keep a Visual Schedule (schedule with pictures for each activity!) to help your child visualize what will be done and in what order
  • Include a variety of Sensory Integration activities!
  • Coordinate activities in sync with the regular school schedule. For example, if lunchtime at school is 1:00, have lunch together at 1:00.
  • Include the week of returning to school in the visual schedule so your child can see in advance when the routine will change.
  • Prepare a visual list of alternative activities for your child to choose from (in case the scheduled activities don’t jive). 😉
  • Be sure to schedule plenty of rest time! 
  • Having a clear schedule will help everyone involved feel more relaxed when vacation both starts and ends.

If you’re going out of town…
Going out of town for vacation can be a whole different animal. I get it, trust me. It’s like ramping up the chaos meter 3-fold. Definitely maintain routine as much as possible, just like if you were staying home. It will require a bit of extra energy to accomplish routine away from home because, well, everything is different! 

  • Help child visualize where you are going and why with images from brochures and websites of your travel destination.
  • Prepare a visual schedule detailing what activities you will be doing each day of the trip.

If you’re taking a flight, be sure to plan in mega-advance, especially if your child has never flown before!


Prepare your child for the airport adventure…

In your backpack/Satchel of Successful Travel Power:

If your child has never flown before, take a trip to the airport in advance. Airports are usually accommodating and are happy to show your child what will happen when they go through security. For example, Philadelphia International Airport offers an Airport Autism Access Program. Check your local airport’s Accessibility Information webpage to get more information on what services they offer

Contact TSA Cares to review security accommodation options for the day of your flight

Request priority boarding from your airline in advance to reduce time waiting at the gate

If you’re stretched for time (which I bet you are!), I recommend checking out Wings for Autism, a program that basically covers all the bases from security to boarding. It’s offered at more than 50 airports across the country. 🙂 

Also, check out this list of sensory-friendly vacation destinations!

I hope you have a great break with your family.


What are you guys doing for upcoming vacations?