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Helpful advice for travelling with an autistic child

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Helpful advice for travelling with a child with autism

Anyone who looks after children knows there’s a lot to consider ahead of a car journey.

You’ll need to ensure they’ve brought all their things, that they’ve been to the toilet, that seatbelts are fastened and that you’ve got enough snacks and drinks for the trip ahead – and that’s before you’ve even started the engine.

However, if you have a child with autism then there are a whole host of additional things you may need to plan out to make their car journey as pleasant as possible. Here are some simple things you can do.

Please remember: this is not an exhaustive list and every situation is different. If you have questions about your personal situation and needs, it’s worth consulting with a qualified professional for tailored advice.

Before you begin your car journey

Even before you head out in your Motability vehicle, there are a host of steps you can take to help a child with autism enjoy their car journey.

Pack comforting and familiar things
Taking books, tech or toys that your child loves can help ease them into the trip and give them comfort in your Motability vehicle. Similarly, if they have a blanket or pillow they like to sleep with, then bring them – it can also help when you get to your destination if you are staying overnight too.

Bring food you know they enjoy
Like a lot of kids, some children with autism can be fussy eaters. If your car journey is going to be a long one, then make sure to pack some safe food that you know they like so you don’t have to rely on a tepid service station pasty to fill them up.

Involve your child in decisions
If your child is old enough, then keep them abreast of your plans and get them involved with planning the trip. Show them brochures about where you are going and ask their opinion. Letting them know what the plan is ahead of the car journey can limit surprises and make for a much easier trip.

During your car journey

Once you hit the road in your Motability vehicle, there are a few things you can do to make the journey as smooth as possible.

Take scheduled breaks
Planning where to stop and take breaks will help keep everyone in the car happy. Let everyone know the schedule beforehand so they know when they can expect a break – which has the added bonus of stopping most of the ‘are we there yets?’ too.

Don’t cut things too fine
While most of us just want to get where we’re going as quickly as possible, travelling with an autistic child may mean some unscheduled delays if things become too overwhelming. Be flexible and allow plenty of time to arrive at your destination and take cues from your child, doing what you need to do to keep them calm and happy – regardless of whether it means adding a few extra minutes on to your trip.

When you arrive

Once you have arrived at your destination, there are some things worth considering to ensure things are as stress-free as they can be.

Stick to a routine
While there will be some unavoidable changes to your routine, try to stick to what you normally do as much as possible. Have your meals at the same time and, if you are staying overnight or longer, stick to the same bedtimes.

Call ahead
If you are staying somewhere new, then call ahead and let them know you will be arriving with a child with autism, inform them if you have any special requirements and see if they can help to make things as calming as possible.

TrustFord dealerships already have a weekly ‘Autism Hour’ from 10-11am every Thursday where dealerships make changes to their environments to make them more accessible to customers with autism, including turning down music and other noise such as tannoy announcements and dimming lights. Training is also given to ensure our staff know how to best serve customers with autism.

Many hotels or other accommodation will be happy to do similar things and help in any way they can if given a little notice.

Find out more about our Motability scheme. If you have further questions or would like to speak with an award winning Specialist about your options in person, use our TrustFord dealership finder to find your nearest dealership and receive free advice from our trained Motability experts.