Camping when your child experiences the world differently
Everyone needs a holiday from time to time. A chance to break from your day to day life, a chance to see the world from a different perspective and a chance to do something different. Exactly the kind of break a motorhome adventure can provide. For many, a break from routine is a refreshing and welcome change, but for others, routine itself is a source of particular comfort and any change to it can be overwhelmingly stressful. Such is the dilemma when considering a family holiday if one family member happens to be autistic.
When an autistic child is involved, special consideration must be taken at the best of times to help the child adjust to the world and their own unique interpretation of it.
While sudden and unexpected changes to routine can cause anxiety, stress and even meltdowns, children with autism can often cope if they’re given plenty of time to mentally prepare and get used to the idea long before the holiday begins.
- Talk about the holiday as early as possible
One you’ve decided on taking a break in a motorhome, tell everyone straight away and talk about it often leading up to the trip. This will help your autistic child to prepare from the point where it’s in the distant future, up to the point where the departure is imminent.
- Take your child with you to inspect the motorhomes
When you’re booking your motorhome adventure, why not bring your autistic child along to see and inspect the motorhome? Seeing it, touching it, looking inside and getting used to the idea of what a motorhome is allows the prospect of spending time in a motorhome less of a mystery.
- Incorporate the familiar
Familiarity can be a source of comfort for many of us, those with autism especially so. You’ll likely be already aware if there are toys, clothes accessories or snacks your child simply cannot bear to be without, so these should, of course, be brought along. While some of your child’s day to day routines might be interrupted by the holiday, there are likely to be others which can still be maintained.
Consider bringing familiar things along to make the change of scenery more friendly and the motorhome seem more like home. If possible, you might even consider a joint holiday with the family of your child’s best friend. Not only will your autistic child be able to play with someone familiar, you’ll be able to arrange to get some ‘grown up’ socialising in too by rotating child supervision.
- Create a list of rules
If the comfort of certainty and structure is one of your autistic child’s needs, then a degree of comfort can be created by discussing and writing down a list of rules letting them know how they should behave when in the motorhome and when camping. Having the list to hand and being able to refer to it may well provide a little extra security for a child beginning to feel overwhelmed.
- Practice Beforehand
Being able to stay in your motorhome for night or two without leaving your house would be a great opportunity to practice sleeping in an unfamiliar bed outdoors, but with the option to move back to comfort if it all gets too much. If your budget won’t stretch to hiring a motorhome for a few days just to acclimatise, then you might consider some alternatives. Perhaps pitching a tent in the back garden, or arranging to stay in a neighbours caravan for a few nights might be possible.
- Don’t allow boredom to creep in
You know your child best, so will be aware of what he or she likes to do to stay calm and occupied. Motorhomes are great for keeping busy on the move, as, unlike your car, passengers can be seated around a table for the whole journey, allowing for activities like reading books, playing board games, colouring in, watching portable DVD players or using laptops with ease.
- Choose your campsites carefully
While one of the beauties for motorhome travel is the ability to stop where and when you please (within reason), choosing your overnight stopovers might be better done in advance and with some planning to make your holiday less stressful. Picking smaller campsites where there will be fewer people and less noise may well be beneficial in keeping down the levels of sensory input down to manageable levels. Having electrical hookups available will also allow you to make sure the motorhome leisure batteries stay charged and by extension electical devices such as phones, laptops and tablets.
People with autism can be especially sensitive to excesses of heat, so try to choose a site where there’s ample shade in order to keep the motorhome cool and to provide some respite from the sun on hot days.
Autism and Motorhome Camping
You know your child best, what he or she likes, what is likely to be overwhelming, what things might act as triggers and what brings comfort, calm and security. Autism needn’t be a barrier to enjoying family activities like holidays and trips away and with a little foresight and imagination, you can make your family motorhome holiday memorable for all the right reasons.