Tuesday 2 August 2022

Tips to help prepare for a camping trip with autistic kids

Tents on hillside

We've been camping a few times now and we've also tried going away in a motorhome. Camping can be great fun but like everything with autistic kids it always works best with a bit of preparation. 

Motorhome, campervan, caravan or tent?

Most people think of camping as staying out in a tent. We've tried this a few times and it's certainly been fun but not without worries.  Life in a tent often means not having some of the basic things that the kids are used to at home and this can be a bit much for some kids.  People with autism can sometimes struggle when things are less familiar so when you start taking away things like internet, toilets or washing facilities that they can control it can sometimes be a struggle.     I was always concerned that it was only a zip holding the family together while everyone slept and what could happen if one of the kids just wandered out. 

Perhaps look at the camp sites you would consider booking and the facilities they have to see if you think they will work for your family.  One of the ways to get around some of these issues is with a caravan, campervan or motorhome.  We've rented a motorhome and found it helps with lots of these issues. It's also easy to set things up and the kids can control their environment a bit easier.  Electrics make life a whole lot easier with our lot too.  Just see where and what you can do with the different vehicles

It is important that you make sure everyone is comfortable with their sleeping arrangements before they leave for the trip. This includes choosing a room according to each individual's needs, knowing where everyone will be sleeping and what kind of bedding everyone needs. Sometimes, the good old fashion sleeping bags can be more than enough. Don’t forget about the essential travel items that can help your little ones fall asleep.

Communication about the trip

Every child could have expectations about a camping trip, but not every child will know what is safe and may need support to stay this way. So, it’s best to communicate this and in a way that is relevant and appropriate for them.  We often use images, symbols or photos to help with this.  For example, a photo of a don't touch symbol can be used near things like stoves, doors or even zips to reinforce that they shouldn't be touched without an adult. 

While it’s important to give rules, it can be a challenge getting your children to understand what these rules are and why they are in place.

We help our kids feel safe by giving a timetable and details or where we are going.  Our eldest likes to know exactly what day and roughly the time of day we will be arriving and leaving and which places we are staying in.  This helps him feel settled and safe.  Our middle son if shown photos or we give him verbal cues of what's happening next. For example, tomorrow we go to a new campsite.  Prior to the break we might find activities to show him what's happening or try something like this fun sleeping bag craft

Prepare for an emergency 

The summer is great but I've always got accidents on the mind with everything from falls, cuts, garzes, bites, stings and especially sunburn a possibility.  I take along the best sunscreen for our autistic family,  insect repellent, Afterbite, all weather clothing even to hot places, and a range of sensitive skin plasters as our kids skin is very sensitive and they won't tolerate some types.  I also make sure we've got enough of everyone's medication should we be delayed anywhere. 

I've been on so many first aid courses and this is worth doing if you haven't done one before.  Knowing I understand basic CPR makes me feel a bit easier and it's easy to find out about through online videos, information or even a course like cprcertificationnow.com

We have two great vehicles for going away camping but they are both old.  However, even when they were new I've always paid for breakdown cover that can get the family home.  I've never had to use it for this specific thing but my kids would struggle more than others if the unexpected happened and if we had no plan for if we broke down somewhere and were unable to get home or where we were going.  

Hopefully you'll have a great time, board games, trips and so on too.  If you have any tips do let us know!

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