Sunny weather, beautiful home-cooked food, the sea, sand and sky – what more could we need! We managed to get away for a few days during the school break to spend some time with family.
It was beautiful to get to the sea. As T commented it is a place which can make you feel ‘free’; on the beach she had space; to talk, sing, collect, dance, watch, notice, feel. (Of course, sensory overload is never far away so short doses required!)
Getting away for a break is tiring though (Oh the irony).
Routines are very different. As a guest you don’t want to call the shots about what and when meals will be, and the unknowing brings its own anxieties when you already live with anxieties about eating. Our animals and familiar surroundings are missed terribly even for a few days. New surroundings means unfamiliar smells, textures, sounds all of which can be tiring to adjust to and difficult to relax around. Family time inevitably includes trying to balance different needs, some needing and wanting to see new places and explore new experiences while others need and want to do the same outings or watch the same movies as last time we visited.
Getting away involves major transitions; leaving and arriving and travelling in-between – twice! And it’s logistically challenging. Choosing outfits in advance, trying to wisely pack the right extras (toys, books, sensory fiddles etc) to keep things calm in all the little gaps, medications (forgot my own this time which didn’t help anything) and those essentials without which the challenge of the new cannot be faced. Making sure things back at base are ready enough for the return.
Here are my tips for keeping short breaks as smooth sailing as possible in the midst of all the challenges ASC, PDA & SPD throw up…
- Don’t give in to the embarrassment of taking too much luggage. I struggle with this one even when we are staying with family. Even a few days requires a lot of stuff for us. But the times we have tried to cut things out we have regretted it. If the dolls need suitcases too so be it!
- Screens come too. If no internet access then favourite programmes must be downloaded in advance. Check favourite games/apps to see if they need internet access, and if so find one that doesn’t and try and introduce it well in advance of the trip.
- pack some snacks and nibbles (or even a tin or 2) that will almost always be eaten to have on standby. Just knowing they are there can help reduce anxiety.
- Do some things that you always do at that place so that not everything is new every visit.
- We are National Trust members which has been so helpful for us over the years. Each new place has a very similar feel to it, and a similar set of components – a house to look round, a garden to ramble through, a play area, a cafe/picnic areas and toilets. So new places can be explored whilst still feeling manageable. Also being members (paying a yearly fee) means we don’t stress if an outing only lasts a short time. There is no pressure to make the day last if it’s not working for whatever reason.
- Try not to forget essential medication (note to self!!).
- Take timers/visual timetables etc if you are using them regularly at home. Don’t expect it all to feel easier.
- Pack sensory toys and fidgets.
- Anything that makes bedtime feel familiar in a new place needs to come too. Is it a particular blanket, their own pillowcase, a cuddly toy that’s always there, their own clock to hear the same ticking as usual, using the very same devotions or prayer – whatever it is, work it out, pack it and still prepare for some even more sleepless nights than usual.
- Don’t forget to take lots of pics; stop and take a breath every now and then to remind yourself to enjoy it all and notice all the good bits (after all dancing on the beach is not to be missed!).
- And when you get home, take a moment to be aware of the many things that happen much more smoothly because of the home and family routine you help put in place – you might need to remind yourself in a few days time!