Traveling with Autism…

3 years ago I wrote about how nervous I was about traveling to Colorado as a family. I was nervous about how Courtney was going to handle the flight, the wedding we were going to, the hotel room. I was so nervous that we almost stayed home.

At the beginning of our autism journey, Joe and I vowed that we would not let autism deter us from doing things like take vacations and so far we have stuck to it.

Traveling with kids special needs or not is hard but when you add autism to the mix, it changes things. The list of things you have to worry about multiplies. The change in routine during your vacation, the size of crowd during different activities, food, public bathrooms (I really need to do a blog just on how inaccessible public bathrooms are to older kids in diapers), sleeping arrangements, how will I calm her during meltdowns, ways to meet sensory needs, how accessible are the different places to strollers and the list goes on.

It would be so much easier to just skip vacations all together but that isn’t fair to Alyssa nor is it fair to Courtney. So we take choose to take the chance.

I post our pictures from vacation on social media and like everyone, the pictures show the highlights that make it look like a seamless trip. I don’t include the scars on Joe, Alyssa’s and my arms from Courtney’s aggressive meltdowns. I don’t share the tears that I shed as I struggle with the extra stress traveling can cause. I don’t talk about the stares we get as Courtney walks around all day with headphones on.

What I do share are the pictures that remind us why we keep doing this. The pictures that show that with every rough moment on the vacation there is a memorable moment that keeps us going.

Our most recent trip was to Mackinac Island. I got a great picture of the girls and I while on the ferry to the island. I sent the picture to my parents and my dad replied back to look at that picture if there are any rough moments. He was spot on. Those are the moments that keep me going because there were rough moments. We took them on a bike ride and they both sat in a carriage that I pulled. Poor Alyssa got attacked as Courtney got frustrated. We had to leave a cocktail hour early because Courtney was attacking me because she couldn’t handle the crowd. She became more and more dependent on her headphones during the trip. I can honestly tell you we won’t remember those moments though. what we will remember is watching Courtney conquer her fear of playing in a big pool. I will remember the waitresses becoming our friends, I will remember the girls loving playing by the fountain. I will remember how fun it was to coordinate our dresses as we dressed up for dinner.

I sent the following text to my good friend before we even got to the island…

Trying to remain positive but I can see this being our last trip to Mackinac Island for a while. Courtney’s anxiety may do us in and we aren’t even there.

She replied back…

Try not to look to far into the future, a lot can happen in a year.

Mary, you are right. I love how my village reminds me to stay positive. We will be going back and we will be taking more vacations because like always, we managed to have a beautiful vacation.

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