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18yo DS with ASD wanting to travel internationally with his GF

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#1 Yippee-Ki-YayMF

Posted 08 July 2019 - 02:17 PM

Please respect that this is in the disabilities section and that I can at times be a little emotionally fragile with blunt comments.


However it is something DS wants to do. So much so that he has been saving madly for the last couple of months and already $1500 towards a trip.

He wants to go to Europe in about September next year.

He wants to visit two or three countries and stay for about two and a half weeks.

I love that he wants to see the world and am proud that he wants to do it independently. I think it is a great motivation for him to throw himself into his speech and occupational therapy, as well as learning more independent living skills. Having a long run up to it, also means his therapy team can help prepare him. His mental health is mostly under control, its more remembering to take his meds that causes some trouble and he is also easily fatigued.

Another consideration is his cyclic vomiting syndrome, which often requires urget medical attention. Are the travel insurance companies that cover this sort of thing? Years ago when I took him to Fiji the travel insurance company wouldnt cover it, but it wasnt such a big issue as although he did need treatment, it was very cheap over there.

I know DS wont go if I tell him I dont think he is ready. I am considering paying for a weekend away interstate in the next six onths or so to give him a bit of practice at managing the airport.

So, while I dont know if he will (or even should) go, I was wondering if anyone had any hints or tips about how to help him prepare? His GF will have to be willing to take some responsibility for his care, I think (such as monitoring his meds and managing an anxiety attack or getting him to hospital - which we will make sure he is near when looking at accomodation).

I think travel has so any benefits. If I could afford to go and take my kids with me, id go tomorrow, but its not possible for the three of us and I am really pleased that he is wanting to do it independently, if a little concerned.

I am thinking some very basic conditions will be that for six months prior to going he needs to reliably take his medication, follow therapists programs and learn some life skills like meal planing, laundry, shopping etc Im very concerned about his wonderful ability to lose things.

Anyway, just after helpful advice.

#2 magicmrkeronashelf

Posted 08 July 2019 - 02:30 PM

Can l ask if it will be a Contiki thing, where it's a whole group of people, not just the 2 of them?

#3 Islander

Posted 08 July 2019 - 02:32 PM

If it provides any comfort whatsoever, my sister with ASD and ID (iq tested at 75) got left alone in Heathrow airport at age 20 by my Dad in the days before mobile phones (long story and irrelevant here, but needless to say my Dad is a total selfish D***). Remarkably she managed to negotiate using insurance to book a nights accommodation and new flights back to Tasmania by going to the airlines counter and allowing them to help her. She had all her travel documents and so they had all the info they needed and she made it back safely. Despite Mum and the rest of us being sick with worry, it did show just how capable she was. And now (in her 30s) she pays for herself to have several weeks overseas every three years. We sometimes talk about if Dad hadn’t abandoned his vulnerable daughter, she may have never had Mums support to do these trips (and she would have never gone without Mum giving her support).  In her case, the trial by fire proved to us that she was much more capable than any of us had guessed at. She also made a serious commitment to learning and demonstrating life and travel skills before the first planned trip. And her itinerary is always very simple.

#4 MayaTheGrinch

Posted 08 July 2019 - 02:32 PM

Can you ring a few insurance companies and see if they will cover it now? We found covermore particularly helpful.  There might be an extra charge. I think we paid maybe an extra $50 to get a condition covered.

I will say I think it’s fabulous he is saving and working with a therapy team to achieve this.

Also some airports like Heathrow and I believe Dublin have asd passes you can apply for that help with fast tracking and support within the airport. Something that might help. Also I believe UK airports are now allowing the smart gates to be used by Australian passports so that is faster processing.

Some airlines if contacted will allow early boarding as well.

Edited by mayahlb, 08 July 2019 - 02:35 PM.

#5 Yippee-Ki-YayMF

Posted 08 July 2019 - 02:33 PM

No group. They will be spending about 5 days with family in Slovenia though, so not totally alone the whole time.

#6 born.a.girl

Posted 08 July 2019 - 02:48 PM

There are some countries with reciprocal health treatments with Australia - Italy being one of them.  You turn up at the doctor/emergency and say that you wish to be treated under the reciprocal arrangement. There are only about a dozen countries though, and of course that doesn't cover you in transit, OR for the unimaginable situation of having to be medically evacuated.

You can test out covermore online and see what they say. It may come up in its list of conditions that you just select from, which saves a phone call.

#7 born.a.girl

Posted 08 July 2019 - 02:54 PM

Because I'm an information junkie, I just looked it up (actually had to do a dummy sign up) and it is listed as one of the things they do cover.  Of course that doesn't mean they will cover in in conjunction with other things. You need to list anything for which you take medication.  At least it's on the list, so you can do a dummy application without talking to someone.

Having/having had a few rare conditions it was a nightmare actually getting people to understand.

#8 bubskitkat

Posted 08 July 2019 - 03:18 PM

Insure & go is another agency to try.

Would he be willing to do an organised trip ie contiki or a cruise? This way he will have his freedom but also the comfort of a group.

It’s a great opportunity for him to live and learn.

Autistic people get so much out of travel.

#9 bubskitkat

Posted 08 July 2019 - 03:22 PM

My father lost my autistic non verbal brother at Dubai airport during a transfer.

I got a call in Melbourne asking me where my brother was. He had no documents on him and no way of talking.

He ended up having a meltdown and Security was called and my father taken to him.

They were very good and after medical clearance they were allowed to fly.

#10 MsLaurie

Posted 08 July 2019 - 03:23 PM

Where else were they thinking apart from Slovenia?

Could they do just 2-3 stops, perhaps a short train ride between them on major routes with multiple trains each day so there’s no major issue if timing was out and a connection missed?

And perhaps pay a premium for flexible airfares rather than the cheapest ones that have so many restrictions? Just to give a mental buffer if things go awry in any way?

#11 born.a.girl

Posted 08 July 2019 - 03:25 PM

View PostMsLaurie, on 08 July 2019 - 03:23 PM, said:

Where else were they thinking apart from Slovenia?

Could they do just 2-3 stops, perhaps a short train ride between them on major routes with multiple trains each day so there’s no major issue if timing was out and a connection missed?

And perhaps pay a premium for flexible airfares rather than the cheapest ones that have so many restrictions? Just to give a mental buffer if things go awry in any way?

The difference in airfares though, once you move past the cheapest ... eyewatering.

Agree about the connections though.  I do pretty much that myself - don't have any connections too dependent on the first arriving on time, even if it's on the same ticket. (Apart from the obvious half-way stopover to Europe, where everyone's in the same boat.)

#12 magicmrkeronashelf

Posted 08 July 2019 - 03:59 PM

Whoops. Maybe too identifying.

Edited by magic_marker, 09 July 2019 - 10:34 AM.

#13 .Jerry.

Posted 08 July 2019 - 04:15 PM

I would think a tour group might be more difficult for someone with autism.
You have to stick to their schedules, no allowance for taking time out for additional rest etc.
Noise in groups might be difficult too, as could be dealing with personalities of those on the trip.

I think own (planned) schedule might be better:  allowing for personal preferences and any sensory needs.  
Could be well planned, with contingencies in place.

#14 GlitteryElfFarts

Posted 08 July 2019 - 04:27 PM

You said you were planning on a weekend interstate for him at some stage.
Why not see if they will put it off for an extra year, and in that time have a few trips interstate to different places and for different lengths of time.
By the time they are ready to go, everything should be sorted(therapy etc.) and you will know how he may handle everything.

#15 born.a.girl

Posted 08 July 2019 - 04:32 PM

View Post.Jerry., on 08 July 2019 - 04:15 PM, said:

I would think a tour group might be more difficult for someone with autism.
You have to stick to their schedules, no allowance for taking time out for additional rest etc.
Noise in groups might be difficult too, as could be dealing with personalities of those on the trip.

I think own (planned) schedule might be better:  allowing for personal preferences and any sensory needs.  
Could be well planned, with contingencies in place.

I agree about the pace of the trip.

My daughter's boyfriend did one last year, organised before they met, and it was a very hurly burly trip. They did SO many countries in a month, with only the opportunity to see one or two things in some cities.

It did have the benefit for him of finding out which places he'd like to return to and visit properly.

Obviously there are different groups.  I'd be more likely to recommend an under 25 Intrepid trip as they generally don't pack as much in, and offer smaller groups, if a group trip was appropriate. Agree that it's probably not.

You can always do day trips to get to places without having to do all of the organising and planning yourself.

#16 Green Gummy Bear

Posted 08 July 2019 - 07:11 PM

I think you should plan for it, and help him plan for it, regardless of whether or not you think it's a good idea.

I know it's so hard, but we still need to let our kids learn through experience and make mistakes. If he chooses not to travel, that's up to him, but you don't want to hold him back.

#17 JoanJett

Posted 08 July 2019 - 07:28 PM

The other area to upskill would be budgeting.  All the pre-planning focuses on saving for the big expenses and outlay to get there, but managing day-to-day spending is a big part of travel.  Your son will need to be able to manage paying expenses as he goes, manage the costs of sightseeing/souvenirs/eating, and also have a grasp of exchange rates, particularly if he travels to areas with different rates.  (Not exactly the same, but I absolutely see it will be the big issue for my son with ADHD in the future)  

So I guess the other preparation I would build in at home is perhaps giving him a budget each week for food (even if it's one meal to cater for the family), transport and "consumables".  It might mean trialling a prepaid debit card (if he doesn't have his own card already linked to his account).  There are great apps for budgeting and exchange rates, so I would try to have him familiarise himself with those.

Whenever/however he embraces travel, it will be an enormous leap of faith for you both.  If you have the backstops in place, it could literally open the whole world for him.  It might also be worth sitting down with his girlfriend and discussing what she is willing, and able, to support - she clearly knows him well already.  It sounds like he has a realistic plan - 2-3 stops for 2-3 weeks is perfect for minimising all the change and upheaval, even for those of us that don't have ASD.  

And Slovenia is a beautiful part of the world, also a little more slow paced - if he can get there, he will love it!

#18 meljbau

Posted 08 July 2019 - 08:51 PM

My DS, ASD and a bit older than your son has travelled overseas in each of the last 3 years and is currently overseas and will be returning solo in a couple of weeks.
He, like a pp's sibling, has an IQ that falls in the borderline range, but whether that is true or not is another matter, however he is trusting of all and younger than his years in many ways.

He had never travelled independently apart from local public transport. He went twice with a uni group and continued on with a tour after, This time he has gone with his girlfriend but will return on his own.

His organisational skills are limited. He can't cook, laundry skills are borderline, but I figure those things are the least of his worries. I sent him with lots of undies and there are heaps of  young people wearing slightly overworn tshirts. They can always wear them in the shower to freshen them up with a bit of soap. He rang me from Japan about laundry once and I told him to google the nearest laundromat and follow the instructions and it all worked out.

I think the idea about practising some travel within Australia is good.Thank goodness your DS has given you plenty of notice. Mine gave me 6 days notice for this last trip and had organised nothing, no travel insurance, no immunisations, no currency. Only a bought non refundable return ticket!

#19 born.a.girl

Posted 08 July 2019 - 08:56 PM

^ Tell him to throw his undies in with him into the shower every time he takes them off.  Even if you're moving on that day, you can roll them up in the towel and put them in a zip lock bag.  The only time we had a problem with this was when the suitcase was in the sun the whole day. Just washed them again.

It's otherwise amazing how many times you can get away with wearing things on holidays - smells o.k., no major stains, wear it.

#20 bubskitkat

Posted 09 July 2019 - 08:42 AM

Buy him a cake of sard wonder soap. It’s a cheap and easy way of getting your clothes clean when traveling.

With phones and technology these days we are only a couple of clicks away from the information that we need.

Ensure that he has a phone with maps and also an international data plan.

I think it’s amazing that he’s thinking of going and working towards this. You must feel really proud of him.

Well done for helping him get to this phase in life where he can have independence and travel.

As a mum of a 10 year old with ASD I can only dream of my son getting so far.

This is inspirational to me and shows what hard work can achieve for kids & adults with autism.

Well done to all your family.

#21 MsLaurie

Posted 09 July 2019 - 09:42 AM

Another thought-
September next year is a long way in the future for an early adult relationship... might be worth thinking about how the trip could be tackled if the girlfriend was no longer on the scene? Would he still be keen on Europe? Would he go with a friend, or do a small group tour or something else?

#22 Yippee-Ki-YayMF

Posted 09 July 2019 - 10:13 AM

Groups are out of the question as he will struggle to cope in that environment.

We have discussed with him the possibility of the two of them not being together by that point. He was accepting and has agreed not to book anything until a few months beforehand.

bubiskat, thank you for the kind words. I am immensely proud of him (and my other son) and we have worked very hard to get to get him to where he is today.

Thanks for the advice, please feel free to keep it coming.

#23 born.a.girl

Posted 09 July 2019 - 12:23 PM

Airfares for September in Europe are probably getting towards their premium a few months beforehand.

I'd recommend signing up for every single airlines emails (I have them going into a special folder) so that you know about any sale prices.    Starting now will give you an idea of how much they fluctuate.   Starting now also gives you an idea of what fares are like for September this year, onwards.

#24 #mocha

Posted 09 July 2019 - 01:25 PM

Why not chat to OT and do like a step ladder

Start small and work up eg:
Bus or train to next town
Public Transport and day trip
Public transport and overnight stay at somewhere near by
Public transport to airport, with set challenges like find gate 12 catch transport between domestic and international airport stay over night if needed.
Try a variety of accomodation
Youth hostels, motels even a night in a caravan park.

After doing steps like these in a more controlled environment he can learn independently, problem solving skills and if need by you are close to pick him up if unsolvable problems arise.

You will both be able to then determine if he has the skills to travel alone.  

I think it’s a wonderful idea that he wants to travel.

Good luck

#25 born.a.girl

Posted 11 July 2019 - 12:16 PM

By the way, you should join us in the Europe Travel thread - for yourself in the future and him next year.

Quite a few have had trips with kids with ASD and have found solutions for things, too.

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