If you find that a trip works well for your family, it’s not crazy to think that you may decide to do the same trip another time down the road. Or maybe like us you have an annual trip set to go see family or friends. Whatever the case, repeat trips happen, and there is a lot of great that comes along with redoing a trip that you already know you enjoyed the first time around. But unfortunately, not everything falls in the pro category when you are doing a repeat trip with an autistic child. So, what are the downfalls and how do you work through them to make sure this time around is just as good as the last??
- The New or Unexpected
With a child who never forgets ANYTHING and clings to repetition at nearly all cost, you are bound to run into a few snags. It is inevitable really, because even if you try to keep the trip EXACTLY the same as the last time around, life has changes, and so will this trip. A road may be closed, weather may be bad, or maybe you just want to try a new event or excursion. Damion thrives on routine, so not surprisingly, we actually struggle more with the new on repeat trips than we do on those that are brand new. He already has it in his head and has made up his mind on how it is supposed to be, so “brand new” is actually easier sometimes than “different”. This past trip we hit a hard meltdown as we stopped at a restaurant to grab a bite on the way down. We had told him that we were going Perkins (one of his favorite places to go), but when we got there, he was so upset. It was a different Perkins than we had stopped at before, and that was just enough change to cause an issue. We honestly didn’t think he would have such a hard time with the small change, or we would have prepped him more ahead of time. He got so upset he actually wanted us to go back home and restart the drive. We were able to finally redirect and he calmed. Communication is always key. Trying to communicate the differences, ANY differences, ahead of time can be helpful, and use similar and preferred events as rewards when possible.
2. Use What They Remember to Your Advantage
Going along with point number one a bit, you know a lot more this time around. Use this. If you do your prep work, you may already be aware of what will be different ahead of time. This time around we knew we would be on a different boat than normal, so we made sure that when we talked about boating, we always said “different one boat”, so he would be prepared for that difference. The fewer surprises for your child the better. So, talk about the trip, talk about the schedule. The more they feel an understanding of the events, the better off your trip will be. My son loves picture schedules, and lucky for him, I take a lot of pictures of our trips. So, I have the ability to build off of our last trip and get him prepared for what is coming by utilizing pictures that he remembers as well. The more he understands the plans, the better our day goes.
3. Make it easy where you can
We weave a lot of workable moments into our everyday lives with our boys. We are constantly working to do better on eating issues, fine motor skills, life skills, etc. On most trips in general, I advise to take it easy. The less stress your child feels in areas like these that you can control, the easier you will hopefully be able to work through those hard moments that you can’t. I’m not saying that you have to throw everything out the window, but on trips we pick our battles. So, we may just help them get dressed without pushing them to do it all themselves, or maybe we let them eat pizza multiple nights in a row without requiring bites of nonpreferred food to be mixed in as well. It’s only a few days. Give yourself a little bit of a break from the extra stress too.
Obviously with a child that thrives on routine, you can find a lot of pros to a repeat trip. But even if you try and match a trip to a T, there will inevitably still be differences that you run into, because there is just no way to be in full control of everything. Finding ways to help your child work through those changes can really make or break the trip overall. We have been on the same summer trip 5 years in a row now, because despite all the challenges that can come with our crew, our great friends continue to invite us. Using the suggestions I gave above, I feel confident in saying that even though no trip is without a few hiccups, each trip down has gotten a bit easier, and a little more enjoyable each time we go.