A Journey of Independence and Adventure
Rose Mabiza • 6 mins read
18 December 2023
Travelling abroad can be an exciting and nerve-wracking experience for anyone, but it can be especially challenging for individuals on the autism spectrum. As a parent of an autistic son, I had my fair share of doubts and worries when planning my son's first school trip. He is embarking on this new journey, and it’s an incredible adventure for sure! He's off to Disneyland Paris in France for four whole days!
In this blog, I will take you through our planning process and share the incredible support we received from my son's school and teacher. I will also describe how our initial worries and doubts transformed into excitement and joy as we embarked on our journey together.
Comfort and support: The preparation
It's natural for parents to be worried about sending their children on school trips. But the exceptional support system in place put me at ease. My amazing husband reassured us that the staff accompanying our son were well-trained and experienced in interacting with our son at school. Thus, we had no doubt he would be in good hands and that his needs would be met.
Additionally, our older son played a crucial role in preparing his little brother for the trip by explaining what to expect and familiarising him with the location and accommodations. This sibling support was invaluable and helped ease our younger son's transition.
As a result of the school's unwavering support, we were even more confident in the future. The school had prepared our son for the trip and ensured everything would go smoothly. With the help of the staff, as well as guidance from his older brother, we were reassured he could have an incredible trip and make lasting memories.
Ready for adventure
To ensure a smooth and enjoyable experience for our son's school trip, we left no stone unturned in our preparation process. The following is our preparation for his first solo international trip:
- To help him visualise the place beforehand, we used tools like Google Earth to get a direct ground view of the location.
- We thoroughly researched the country and its customs to help him visualise the place beforehand.
- I created a comprehensive checklist and packed everything from clothes and toiletries to games and snacks for the 12-hour coach journey.
- We discussed the trip's rules and designated a person for him to approach if feeling anxious, adding an extra layer of comfort.
- A written contract and a designated person they can approach if they feel anxious can be helpful for young people with autism.
- The support team also knew his needs and preferences, including his dietary requirements. This enabled them to plan activities and accommodations he would enjoy and find comfortable.
Taking these steps allowed us to ensure the trip was a successful one for our son. Thorough preparation is key to any trip, especially for children with special needs.
Discovering the world
The importance of allowing our children to explore the world and find their path is ingrained in us as parents. We recognise that it can be challenging for children on the spectrum to navigate changes in routine, unfamiliar foods, crowds, and noise. However, we are confident that with careful planning and preparation, this journey and destination will open up new and wonderful experiences for him.
We've worked closely with the school and our son's support team throughout preparation. We created social stories to help him understand the schedule and provided sensory overload tools. We anticipate some challenges on the trip, but we look forward to growth. It is exciting to see his progress, and we look forward to seeing him thrive.
A joyful departure and anticipation
The day of departure finally arrived, and the excitement in our son's eyes was undeniable. Sleep eluded him, and he woke up early, eager to get ready and embark on this grand adventure.
We accompanied him with his travel documents and luggage, walked him to school, and our hearts were brimming with happiness, knowing we had played a part in preparing him for this monumental trip. As we saw him off, we felt a mix of pride, joy, and sadness at his leaving. We were excited to hear about his experiences on his return and how he had grown from this trip.
The day of departure marked the beginning of an exciting journey for our son, one that we had prepared him for with care.
An empty home, a full heart
As we await updates and photos from our son's journey, our home feels empty without him. We miss him. However, we know that this experience is invaluable for his growth and independence. We are filled with anticipation, awaiting his return and the stories he will share.
While we miss him dearly, this trip is essential to his personal development. It is an opportunity for him to explore new horizons, gain new perspectives, and develop new skills. His journey to Disneyland Paris has been a transformative experience, showing us the power of embracing new experiences and allowing our children to discover their paths. We are grateful for the support system that made this journey possible and excited to see where our son's path leads next.
From hesitations to excitement, our son's first school trip to Disneyland Paris has become a transformative journey. I am forever grateful for the incredible support system from his teacher and my older son. This trip goes beyond a theme park visit; it represents the power of embracing new experiences and allowing our children to discover their paths.
I hope to inspire and uplift other caregivers and families facing similar challenges by sharing my story. Let's build a community of support, celebrating the achievements of our exceptional children and empowering each other to embrace the journey of growth and possibility.
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Click on the links below to read more articles from Rose:
- My story – A mother, a wife and a woman
- Why I’m now telling my story publicly
- The burden of speaking for many women
- How I got into health and social care
- Autism acceptance: A mother’s journey
- Embracing our autism journey as a family
- Dealing with stress and autism at home
- My autistic child’s potty and personal hygiene training
- From Anguish to Adventure: Tips for Traveling with an Autistic Child
- A Heartfelt Tribute to My Inspirational Team
- Managing Anxiety in Autism: A Parent's Perspective
- Coping Strategies For Supporting My Autistic Child.