Last week my little family traveled to Wahington, DC to take in the sites and to see family and friends. If you follow me on social media you probably saw daily posts about the trip. There is still more to share so hold on tight.

Firstly my little brood has aged ten years since we all were in the DC area together. Back in 2006 our oldest was 8 years old and had just discovered master painters like Gogh and Monet. My youngest was just 2 and didn’t know what the space shuttle was. Since then we have moved from my home-state of Maryland to Utah. So this trip was a production if I’ve ever seen one. Part of me wants to share everything about the trip with you, every blow by blow, but I think I will start with my son.

Our youngest is on the Autism spectrum. He a high functioning boy with Aspberger syndrome, was particularly nervous about the 4 hour flight. Unlike some 12 year olds he chose sit in between his parents. For most of he flight he refused to look out the window and closed his eyes during take off.

This is typical of a child with his condition. Although not every child with Aspberger’s is afraid to fly the newness of the situation is what got him. Through out the trip he found himself doing new things, trying new foods, and meeting new faces. In some instances he became withdrawn and needed a little prodding to get him moving. But that is the beauty of a trip like this: there is so much to do and see in a short period of time. He was taken out of his comfort zone and had to learn to adapt. This may not be true for many on the spectrum, sharing new experiences does take quite a bit of planning and careful attention to smooth transitions from activity to activity, but is well worth the effort.

I have 3 tips that helped us long the way.

  1. Start Early. When planning a trip it is never too early to get your child’s mind around what you’ll be doing. Plant the seed early that there will be new things and new people. We started the process a full 3 months before our vacation.
  2. Keep to the Schedule: As much as possible keep to your child’s daily schedule. Meals, bed time, and hygiene time makes unfamiliar places seem familiar. Having a loose activity schedule with your child’s input is also a must. We allowed our son to be in charge of the map of the area and the loose schedule we had planned. He was also will to barter his own likes for time doing what the family wanted to do.
  3. Have Down Time: If you’re constantly on the go, your child may not have time to process all the new information coming his way. We built in two days of down time to give us both physical rest and also mental rest. We took this time to reassess the day before and tweek how to handle things in the future

BONUS:

We were not immune to our child wondering off. Even though his high functioning and 12 years old we did get separated from him in a vast museum. In case this happens always go to security first. The Smithsonian has protocols for this and will watch all exits for your child. We have chosen not to give our son a cell phone. But a smart watch is a good idea if you have a wanderer. We took a picture of him every morning so we had an up-to-date picture to use in case he was missing. We also had an even numbered group. We could pair off in any exhibit and take turns keeping an eye out for our son. 

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Here is a highlight reel of his adventures.

MY Boy DC Trip 2016

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