Many parents of children on the autistic spectrum know how stressful hotel accommodation stays can be, both for them and for their child; after all, for kids on the spectrum, a hotel room can seem entirely foreign and uncomfortable compared to the safe surroundings of home. If you put off travelling with your ASD child because you can't face the stresses of dealing with meltdowns and sleepless nights, read on for some things you can do to ensure that your child and the rest of your family have a hotel stay that is both enjoyable and relaxing.
Make a social story beforehand
Try and book your hotel a few weeks before your trip, then sit your child down and either show them pictures of the hotel online or print a few off the website. Make a social story about it with your child so they know what to expect when they get there.
A few days before you set off, call the hotel and tell them about your child's condition. There is a chance they will be able to help in ways you haven't thought of, such as offering a room in a quiet area of the hotel, offering your child meals that cater to any special diet he or she may have, or give you a room with a fridge where you can store any of your child's favourite foods or drinks. Also, if your child is like many autistic children who tend to wander, you can explain this to the hotel staff so you are able to come up with a safety plan in case this happens.
Make it feel like a home away from home
While it will mean extra luggage, bringing your child's sheets, blankets, and/or pillow case with you on your trip will make bedtime a lot easier. Many ASD children prefer routine and things to stay the same; by being able to rely on this predictability, they are able to feel more secure and less anxious. Any steps you can take to recreate your child's bedroom will mean your child is more likely to feel safe and able to sleep.
Consider other items to bring along, such as favourite toys or books, or maybe a DVD your child likes, plus a device to play it on.
Stick to your nightly routine
As much as possible, try and stick to the same routine at night. During the day, when your family is out and about, there will be plenty of new and potentially overwhelming experiences for your child. If you can try and keep things more predictable in the evenings - perhaps a bath at the same time each night, followed by a bedtime story - your child will feel more able to deal with the stimuli that the daytime activities have to offer.
So, with a little forward planning and some focus on routine, your hotel stay will be exactly what it should be: filled with fun and relaxation!