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Road Trips – Making It Fun for Everyone

Taking a road trip with the family can be fun and exciting, but traveling with children who have special needs can pose extra challenges. Avoid the bumps in the road by spending some extra time planning, and you will be less likely to encounter any road blocks along the way.

Establish your route ahead of time - map it out, and plan scheduled stops. Check ahead for construction or road closures. Be aware of rest areas and plan stops accordingly.

Take a break - Stop for a break about every two hours to use the restroom, leg stretching, and burning off some energy. Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) may require more frequent breaks and for longer intervals. Remember in all the excitement of planning your road trip to take into consideration your child's limits for a long day on the road.

Make the journey part of the trip - Search for interesting places to stop along the way, kid friendly rest spots, and appealing outdoor locations. Bring a few outdoor play items to keep your child occupied and to burn off some energy. Using a timer during scheduled stops can help keep kids aware of when it's time to get back on the road.

Prepare your child for the trip - Share your enthusiasm, while helping them learn the trip schedule, including planned stops. Creating a social story is beneficial for most children with ASD and will help them to understand what the road trip will be like and what to expect. Social stories further help with easing the child's anxiety in upcoming routine changes.

Give your child a preview - Get pictures of the places you will see along the way and where you are going. Make a visual schedule to show your child the changes in their typical daily routine during the road trip. Taking your child on a few mini trips prior to the actual road trip will get them use to taking trips in the car.

Remember, even with the best made plans to remain flexible and allow for adjustments. Sometimes getting to your destination can be half the fun.

Elizabeth Wistuk is Director of Education, New Story Monroeville School. New Story is a group of schools and services located throughout Pennsylvania, which help children with severe and complex emotional and behavioral disorders live good lives. For more information, visit www.newstory.com.

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