Alison (mother of 2 children, including 1 with Asperger’s): For us as a family, it’s one of the most challenging things to do – is to be out of a routine.
Joanne (mother of 4 children, including 2 autistic children): I remember one time we were at an airport in Queensland. And Xalie, at that time, used to have huge anxiety. And we were told we had to wait an hour for the aeroplane. Now she couldn’t sit there with all those people in the airport. So she’s having this – literally – screaming meltdown in the airport. And my husband and I are there, not knowing what to do. So we took her off to try and buy her chips and umm, try and calm her down. And people are looking at her as if to say ‘What’s wrong with your daughter?’ We were saying ‘She can’t handle all the crowds.’ We explained she had autism.
Marita (mother of 2 autistic children): We flew to Queensland in January just after the floods. We arrived the day the floods were meant to peak. And we actually restricted a lot of the kids’ access to TV so they wouldn’t see the news. Restricted their access to the computer so they wouldn’t accidentally go to the news website, see stories about the flooding, about people dying and stuff. Because they would just get so distressed about what was happening. They wouldn’t be able to understand that Queensland was not Melbourne, and that where we were going on the Gold Coast was not flooded and that their family who were on the Gold Coast weren’t dying in this flood.
Rachel (mother of 4 children, including 3 autistic children): When Alexander got his diagnosis, we went to Sydney, he’d never been on a plane before. So I started talking about it, four months before we went. Like, when we had that appointment, and I booked those flights, I started talking about it. We’d play with toy planes, and we’d talk about it. And I’d say, you know, ‘it’s going to be very noisy on the outside, a little bit noisy on the inside, but it’s so fun’ and, you know, I was making it an excitement for him. And, I could have sat there and spent hours and hours working on a book, ‘Here, look at this book.’ But I felt like, for him, that worked, and he was very well prepared.
Bobby (father of 2 children, including 1 autistic child): We actually relate it to umm… to things that he has. For example recently, when we went to Hamilton Island, we flew with Jetstar. And Sharon, one day on a trip back from interstate for work, got Peter a Jetstar aeroplane. So the night before we said ‘Tomorrow we’re going on a plane, we’re going on a holiday, swimming,’ and that sort of prepped him up, and umm, just going ‘What movies do you want to watch on the plane?’ So, he’ll choose which movies, we’ll put them in the green … folder so that he knows he’s going to watch those movies on that aeroplane. So that’s the kind of preparation that we do.
Joanne: They like preparation, umm, it’s very funny because as a family – although there is four children, we do try and get away a bit, because we feel it’s good for the twins to… to get out of that five kay (km) radius. You know: of your home environment – to get away. And my daughter Xalie, who’s a routine little chicken, she sees signs that we’re going away. So, Mum will be getting bags out, she’ll be packing up, and maybe the dog has been taken to Grandma’s the night before and the first thing she always does is, she sees it looks like we’re going away, so she’ll go in, she’ll grab the DVDs, she’ll go out and put them in the car, and she’ll sit in the car. And she’ll wait in the car for… half an hour or an hour. Because she sees that we’re going away and she doesn’t want to be left behind (laughs) so she’ll sit waiting in the car.
Shannon (father of 4 children, including 3 autistic children): Our kids repeat, a lot. So if you’re saying for instance, we’re going to their Nan’s, umm, Al will repeat that, over and over again, for… a week. Like, more so than… I mean, I know a lot of kids repeat things, but they’ll go overboard. And, you know: ‘We’re going to Nan’s at this date, this time, when are we leaving?’ This kind of thing. Constant. Over and over again. It’s like a constant reassurance that we’ll be still going.
Joanne: We normally prepare visuals for the children. To say that umm, Saturday or Sunday, we’re going away – we’ll tell them the night before: ‘Tomorrow we’re going on holidays, we’ll be going to the beach, or to the river. We’ll be having… five sleeps.’ Or we’ll be having two sleeps, however long we’re going. So they’ve got a mental picture in their head of what they’re doing.
Sharon (mother of 2 children, including 1 autistic child): I try and use social stories in a very relaxed environment to try and talk about it. Sometimes I’ll use visuals. Sometimes I’ll do a run-through of the story, just verbally, and then sort of bring in the visuals afterwards. You know, so he gradually gets introduced.
Joanne: They’ll often say to me ‘Is it a car holiday? Or a plane holiday?’ And we’ll say: ‘Plane holiday, beach, five sleeps. Mum and Dad are going, Bryce, Xalie, Flynn and (other child) are going, and then we’re coming home.’ And that’s enough information.
Sharon: The recent holiday we had to Hamilton Island was very, very positive and I think the great thing about that was the two boys as brothers got to spend time together.
Joanne: There’s a lot of consideration that goes into our family holidays. For example we recently took a holiday up to Echuca, to the Murray River, with another family. And I had to make sure that where our cabin was located in the caravan park, that I could see the children on the play equipment and made sure that where my kids would be playing, there wasn’t a lot of cars going by.
Alison: Everything we do has to be limited, so you wouldn’t do too many things in one day. You wouldn’t have a lot of activities. You have to make sure that you let him know exactly what is planned for the day – so, having that timetable. So, if you were to say ‘Well, we’re going to go swimming, and then we’re going fishing, then we might go for a walk along the beach.’ That would be it. You couldn’t then go and put something else into that mix. It would have to be that’s what you did. And you did it in that order.
Sharon: We have favourite holiday spots, so I guess that he’s getting used to going to similar spots. Umm, we just recently had a holiday to Hamilton Island and he’s been there once before. So this time around it was pretty easy, we stayed in the same place and we went to the same beach. What it allowed us to do was probably expand on the activities we did.
Jane (mother of 2 children, including 1 with Asperger’s): I think we are amazingly lucky with Julian, because I know a lot of people with children with autism have great difficulty. Because, like I’ve said, Julian wants routine and he craves routine, but amazingly he also has this incredible travel urge, to go and see all these places. I’m not quite sure why, but he loves going to different countries.