Enjoying Your Vacation
As I sit here on the beach in Grand Cayman, I am a long way from home and my daily responsibilities. I am sipping my morning coffee and watching the divers prepare the boats for another day of scuba. I see a child, probably three to four years old, playing at the edge of the water. He is running in and out of the ocean as the waves approach and withdraw. He squeals with delight, hands flapping furiously as he dances with the water. Close by sits a watchful adult, I suspect his father, making sure that he doesn’t get too close to the water’s edge. He plays for an extended period of time before dad says “enough” and they prepare to go inside. He is heartbroken that his dance is over, but finally, willingly goes with dad into their vacation unit. He is done dancing, but just for now. He knows there will be time for dancing again.
As I later spoke with the father, he explained that his son has autism. He loves the water and especially enjoys the waves on the beach. The family has come to this same resort, year after year, because the child has become familiar with the accommodations and looks forward to dancing on the beach. Dad explains that they take time to prepare his child for vacations, preparing stories about what he will see and do, plus reviewing pictures from past vacations in the same location. The resort has been very accommodating, insuring that the family stays in the exact same unit each year.
The father went on to say that they are careful to bring the toys that his son prefers and they maintain the same schedule of activities that they follow at home. For the child, little is different from home, except the location. This has worked well for the family for the past several years as they continue to enjoy this particular resort in the Caribbean.
Last year they spoke to the salesperson who was their host for the week. The salesperson had new units to see as new buildings were being constructed. The new buildings were to be directly on the ocean, offering a spectacular view, as well as easy access to the beach. The family debated and finally decided to purchase one of the new units. It would provide more conveniences than the current one, including a washer and dryer. Now the dilemma, how would they prepare their child with autism the next time they came to the resort? He would not be returning to the same unit that he had become familiar with over the years.
This family understood their son and the issues his disability presented. They visited the new unit several times during vacation, took pictures of the furnishings, and pictures of their son in the rooms. They talked about the new vacation spot in positive terms and gave him the opportunity to explore the beach that would be directly in front of them.
As vacation time approached, they were able to use the same kind of stories to prepare him for the change. The pictures helped him to understand and remember that things would be a little different this time. He was able to move into the new unit and enjoy the changes with the rest of the family. This is a family that was thinking ahead, keeping the needs of their child in mind.