Thinking about going camping this summer? It’s the best time of year; school is ending and the weather is too good to pass up. Being around nature is a great way to relax and can create long lasting memories.
But we understand that any type of outing can cause some concerns when traveling with an autistic child. One mother, Tara, can definitely relate to these worries. Her 8 year old daughter Maggie likes routines and familiarity, so going somewhere new can be a big obstacle. However, through experience Tara has strategized in a way for camping to be enjoyable for the entire family. Here are her 11 tips:
- Use the Buddy System. Travel with families whose children are around the same age. This way you can pair the kids up and have an extra set of hands helping you out.
- Bring Friends. More people means more fun, and also more help available. It will come in handy if your child doesn’t want to participate in all activities. For instance, the adults can be split up while some take a group to the water and others stay back.
- Consider an Electrical Site. Although this kind of defeats the whole “getting back to nature” idea, it can be life saver. Having a fully charged iPad or mobile phone can come in handy in situations if your child starts to become dysregulated. It can provide the break that they need so they can come back to join the fun.
- Lock the Tent. You can use a combination lock or zip ties to keep the front closed. This ensures that your child won’t sneak out in the middle of the night without your knowledge (but remember to plan bathroom trips well). You can hide a pair of scissors inside the tent in case of an emergency.
- Plan the Location for Your Site. Take a look at the camping site beforehand and find a good place to set up. You want to consider being close to places you’ll use often, such as the bathroom or swimming area.
- Look for Playgrounds. They are full of great activities for kids to let out all of their energy.
- Always Have Snacks on Hand. This is a great way to get your child to do certain things. For example, if they want some pretzels let them know they can have a bag but first they must help clean up or play catch.
- Fire Safety. This is important for all kids but especially those with autism. The sensory stimulation with the lights, heat, and sound can draw their attention. When burning a fire it’s best to have an adult by their side at all times.
- Water Safety. You can take water out altogether by choosing a site without a lake or a pond.
- Find Shade. Heat can sometimes be overwhelming so having a good shaded area can provide relief.
- Have a Lost Plan. If your child tends to wander it’s a good idea to be prepared. Keep a current photo nearby and in your phone. Taking daily pictures is a great way to remember what your child was wearing that day. Also, program the campsite’s numbers into your phone so it’s easy to access if needed.
Written by Raiza Belarmino