Autism Trips: Riding the Colorado River
It's that time of year again, when the family is itching to find out what to do with summer vacation. Â Most parents want to have a fun time with the kids, keep them occupied while they relax and enjoy time away from work. Â But for those with a child on the Autism Spectrum, this can seem like a daunting task.
In the past I have talked about going to places that seem counter-intuitive, like Disneyland. Â The noise, the crowds, and the long waits generally don't create a great atmosphere for children on the spectrum, but Disneyland is leading the way in empowering parents with short wait times and minimal negative stimulation. Â But, as fun as Disneyland can be, are theme parks really your only option?
I have a friend over at Colorado River & Trail Expeditions, with whom I have had this conversation. Â Walker Mackay said that they have, in the past, offered trips for families that have children on the spectrum, and they have had a blast. Â There are a number of advantages to riding a river, as well as a number of concerns. Â Your advantages are:
- Outdoor Stimulation: Â Most of the country through which river rafting takes you tends to be quiet and secluded. Â This means the issues of large groups, loud noises, etc. is limited to the river itself which can be very soothing.
- Family Enjoyment: Â Everyone can enjoy the trip, and not feel like they are being excluded from the trip. Â Yes, it can sound like a selfish reason for being upset, but it's a very real concern when dealing with children (and teenagers). Â For a trip like this, everyone is pitching in, enjoying the ride, and they can all have an adventure.
- Ideal Placement: Â Not everyone needs to be on the edge of the raft when they ride down the river. Â In a trip that I took on the Snake up on Jackson Hole, there were a couple of people who were well protected in the center of the boat, while the rest of us paddled on the sides. Â This would be an ideal place for a child with Autism.
- Prepared Guides: Â If you book the trip and TELL THE GUIDE that your child has Autism, they can be prepared for that contingency. Â Not all groups are prepared for this kind of thing, so you would want to check with your tour planner. Â Or you can book with my friend Walker. Â ^_^
- Falling In: Â Some rafting trips hit some pretty active rapids, and falling in is a real concern. Â The best way to protect a child with Autism from falling in (or anyone, for that matter) is to place them in the center of the raft. Â But also the time of year is a factor. Â The rapids tend to be most active during the spring run-off, such as in April or May. Â If you schedule your trip later in the year, such as August, the rapids are more tame. Â And, as with everyone on the raft, you are required to place life-jackets on everyone.
- Getting Lost: Â When you are in the woods, it may be a concern that someone will get lost while traveling, hiking, or while everyone else is making camp. Â But this problem is pretty much the same wherever you go, and the answer is the same: make sure at least one person is fully in charge of and watching your child with Autism at all times. Â If you can't do it, look someone in the eye and tell them they are in charge. Â Make sure they respond. Â That can go a long way.
- Impatient Guide: Â I've never had this happen, but it is possible that a guide will get impatient, generally from lack of knowledge or awareness of what to expect from the Spectrum. Â Make sure you talk it over with your guide well in advance of the trip, and while on the trip. Â Let them know what is likely to set off your child into a meltdown, what needs to be done to relieve the tension, or how they react when excited, worried, etc. Â Often a little bit of knowledge can go a long way.