Adults with Autism and Travel
My son and I discussed our pre-pandemic travel plans the other day.
What did we discuss?
The summer of 2020, my son, husband, and I had a Europe trip planned. England, Poland, and France. We were very excited about this trip.
My son was very excited. He was finally going to go to Europe, one of his dreams.
Then, the trip got cancelled.
What happened in 2021?
Due to the Covid variants, and our country’s difficulty embracing rational ways to get out of this Covid nightmare, we decided to play it safe and remain in the country.
In other words, he pushed our Europe trip for one more year.
We did a Western States driving trip.
It was really nice. My son enjoyed it, but I knew he was really anxious to get back to our Europe plans.
Have we discussed the trip?
We plan to go during the summer of 2022.
Specific plans have not been made yet (flights, hotels), but we will do that soon.
Is my son excited?
He was especially pleased to learn that we can stay a bit longer than we had originally planned. We added a few days in Poland, which makes him very happy.
We discussed our new/old plans on a recent car ride.
And, during this discussion, my child said something to me that made my stomach jump.
Something that parents deal with all the time.
Special needs parents and typical parents.
Something very “normal,” but frightening to parents.
What did he say?
My son discussed what he wanted to do on this trip, and then went on to mention…
…a trip he might want to take by himself one day.
Okay, yes, this is typical of a young adult. He’s eighteen. He loves to travel. Additionally, he now has the freedom to travel by himself because he is a legal adult.
More so, he has the right to travel by himself.
He’s an adult.
All of that is true.
Similarly, I just traveled by myself. No problems.
So, it’s it okay that he do it, too?
What does that mean to me?
Makes me (and millions and millions of other parents) nervous and scared and paranoid.
Then, add the autism aspect of it.
A young adult with autism wants to travel by himself to Europe.
To hear my child say, “I’d like to travel to Europe by myself someday,” is the statement that made my stomach churn.
Which is completely normal.
Again, typical parents have to deal with this all the time.
Do I let it happen?
Or, rather, can I stop it?
What right do I have to put a stop to a solo Europe trip?
Doesn’t he have the right as an adult to travel by himself?
Above all, what role does the autism play?
How to judge how much autism is autism?
That might be the real question here.
For instance, it’s not like my son doesn’t go off on his own.
He goes off by himself (in our area) all the time on foot or by bus.
We dropped him off this summer while in Colorado to a model train museum while my husband and I went to lunch.
He did fine.
As far as I know.
What approach could I take? Baby steps.
Maybe he takes a plane by himself to visit my brother or sister-in-law on the East Coast. Maybe he takes a train by himself to San Francisco (to his aunt or cousin).
He has all of the relevant documents (IDs, passports).
I’m confident he’s be respectful and polite.
That’s not the issue.
What is the issue?
Will he meet the wrong person at the wrong time? That person out to do something bad to a (potentially) vulnerable young man.
Every parent’s nightmare.
What to do?
Right now, we go to Europe as a family.
And, see how things go.
I can certainly take that opportunity to teach him how to travel independently and how to protect himself.
He will need to learn the bus and train schedules in Europe.
There will language issues. How will he deal with that?
My son will have to learn what to look out for in terms of protecting himself.
How to, maybe, spot trouble.
And, how to get help if he needs it quickly.
What does it all mean?
In conclusion, all I can do it prepare him, teach him, and trust him.
Which is what we do. What we have always tried to do.
All I can do is believe he’ll be fine because he has the right tools.
With experience. And, common sense.
I love his dreams and have to support him with ones that are doable.
Travel is cool. Dreams are cool.
What can I say?
Here is more information about young adults with autism and travel:
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