Going on Vacation: Special Needs Living

family vacation

Today's guest blogger is Katie Olson (aurorabunny), mom to 3-year-old Brody, who has autism.

Every week, Katie shares the ongoing struggles and triumphs that often come with parenting a child with special needs. Today, she talks about how hard it is to think about taking her child on vacation.

Autism doesn't take a vacation. Literally.

The dog days of summer have already arrived, at least where we live. The temps are stifling, most kids are out of school, and for many families, this time of year means at least one or two ritualistic trips out of town.

My family, on the other hand, hasn't been on a vacation since before my son Brody was born 4 years ago -- and the mere mention of the V word is enough to send me into anxiety overload.


Not only does my son's special school go year-round -- no summer break -- but the things that many people enjoy the most about trips and traveling could easily fill a list of things that my child with autism hates more than anything else.

Unfamiliar surroundings? Check. 

New people? Check. 

New experiences, unfamiliar foods, a different sleeping environment? Check, check, check.

Picturing my son trying to handle those things all at once isn't something I can fathom. Of course I've considered the possibility that I'm selling the little guy short. But when I think about how a trip to a different grocery store usually ends in a screaming, puking meltdown, I once again feel validated in my decision to hold off on a vacation. (Anyone who has a child with autism can attest that the only thing that's worse than a meltdown at home is a meltdown hours away from home.)

But my husband thinks that this is the year that we should consider taking a short road trip, perhaps to a zoo that's about four hours away, and try staying the night in a hotel. I'd love to try it but I'm just too freaked out about the endless possibilities for disaster.
I wonder if Brody will seem more ready for a trip any time in the near future, or if we're going to have to just bite the bullet and try a little road trip one of these days. The most we have to lose is our sanity -- which has been MIA for quite a while anyway.

I've been dreaming of a trip to Disney World since before my son could even walk, so I guess eventually we're going to have to start somewhere.


Image via D.B. Blas/Flickr

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