Caring for a child with autism comes with its own set of challenges and those can vary greatly due to the severity of their condition. Many children with autism have no problems with incontinence, while others may experience involuntary control of bowel movements and urination. This may happen because an autistic child is unable to communicate effectively or they are distracted by other stimulating activities. When you introduce the concept of traveling with an autistic child that suffers from incontinence, it may sound overwhelming, however there are effective ways to manage.
Characteristics of Autism
First, let’s explain autism in its most basic form.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) usually appears when a child is very young, typically between the ages of 2 and 3. They begin to show signs of repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication are delayed, and they lack in the development of social skills.
Some of the characteristics of autism, but are not limited to are:
- Repetitive behaviors such as body movements or actions
- Difficulty playing with other children or holding a normal conversation
- Taking an unusual interest in certain objects
- Overreacting to one or more of the 5 senses (touch, sight, smell, taste, or hearing)
- Underreacting to one or more of the 5 senses
Incontinence in Children with Autism
Since children with a disability such as autism may be distracted easily and for longer periods of time, they may “forget” to use the bathroom. Because of their delayed speech and language development, they often are unable to effectively communicate their need to voluntarily void. With the many challenges that children face with autism, it is easy to understand that incontinence can be one of them.
You may already be exhausted from making sure there aren’t any sensory triggers present for your child, accident preparation, and being as patient and supportive as possible. If you have travel coming up, you might be starting to feel the stress of it all and wonder if it is even possible.
Traveling with Incontinence and Autism
Traveling can be manageable when you have a child with ASD and incontinence. It might seem overwhelming at first, but there are several things that you can do to prepare and make everyone’s experience more enjoyable.
Start Planning Early
A child with autism may be able to sense the stress in others and this may set off their emotions. The earlier you start planning the trip, the less stress you’ll exude as you are walking out the door. Getting your child involved with the planning and packing could aid in them not feeling that something is happening that is far out of their routine when you are ready to leave. It would be wise to prepare to expect the unexpected and this may help avoid anxiety or a sudden outburst.
If you are traveling in a vehicle, make sure you are aware of acceptable restrooms along the way to your destination. Download an app on your phone such as Sit or Squat or Flush to make the process less cumbersome.
Try Role Playing
You might even try to role play some of the experience with your child before traveling. If you are flying, setup a mock security checkpoint for them to walk through. You might take a longer ride in the car while staying in your local area for them to get used to being in the care for a length of time with their seatbelt secured. Take them to the store with you frequently to get them used to standing and waiting in lines.
Pack the Essentials
Incontinence doesn’t have to be difficult to manage while traveling if you pack the right supplies. If you are keeping your child with autism distracted in the car, they may not realize they have to use the bathroom until it’s too late. There are many incontinence products that are effective for all levels from leaking to full voids.
Boy’s and girl’s potty training pull-ups are a great option for leaks and heavy absorbency diapers work well for locking away liquids and provide maximum protection. It’s also a good idea to line the car seat or seat material with an underpad for added protection. This will help to prevent anything from getting soiled or wet. There are a variety of other products to choose from that might help in times of need.
Schedule Frequent Breaks
A child with autism and incontinence can often get emotional and agitated when they are tired and/or bored. Scheduling plenty of stops along the way to use the restroom and take a break might help with your child’s mood and can also be a short pause for fun. Make sure to follow the verbal and non-verbal cues from your child and try to be as flexible as possible with your travels to accommodate their need to take more rest stops than you might have originally planned.
Traveling with an autistic child that has incontinence doesn’t have to be a difficult process if you plan well in advance for the unexpected. Make sure you take plenty of pictures to capture the entire experience so your child can reflect back and observe how well they managed on your travels together. Remember to be flexible and stay positive so everyone can have a great trip.
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