By Kodey Toney
Room For One More
My wife and I decided to take a trip to Kansas City this weekend to visit with family and catch a Royals baseball game. I’m a die-hard fan, and have been since my days of growing up in KC as a child, so I decided it would be a good idea to introduce my kids to the major leagues with a visit. When we arrived at the hotel that we would call home for a couple nights my wife asked me to do something that sparked my interest for this week’s article. She said, “See if they can put us on the first floor. You know how the boys can be; especially Konner.” This made me question what we can do to help when staying in a hotel with a child on the autism spectrum. Here are a few tips, and a story or two.
When we arrived at the hotel I asked the man at the front counter if he had something on the first floor, but he was obviously new and didn’t know if they did, or how to change things if they did. I decided to just go with the third-floor room he gave us and hope that the people on the second floor were forgiving.
You see, my kids are typical boys. They like to rough-house, wrestle, jump off of things, and can get pretty loud. We try to control that, but boys will be boys.
Konner, however, is a different story alone. He has things that go along with the autism that can make him an undesirable housemate at times. Besides the impulsive screaming and potential meltdowns Konner seems to have feet that weigh 50 pounds each. Though he doesn’t really stomp he still has the loudest walk in the world…or at least to me. This is amplified with the fact that he has an impulsive stomp, almost stutter-step, when his medicine has worn off. It’s almost like a nervous tick. This usually happens close to bedtime, which is awesome for all those in rooms around us.
So the first tip is just what I talked about earlier. If you can, request a first-floor room. This eliminates the loud stomping for the people below you.
Runningforautism.com has some great tips that’s I’m going to share.
Most hotels these days have pictures of the rooms on the website, or at least a model room which, if you’ve been in one room they are pretty much the same. It’s a good idea to print off pictures, or at least pull up the page, and look at them together. It’s always a good idea to talk ahead of time about the trip as well and what they might expect.
Pack things that are familiar to your child. Any familiarity is a good idea. Toys, movies, iPads, blankets, pillows, or anything that can keep their mind off of the fact that they are in a different space will be good.
Tell the manager about your child’s disability. This may be a good idea if you suspect things will get out of hand. You would be surprised what they will do to accommodate you if you let them know. We were at a hotel once and had a person complain about the noise of the boys stomping in late afternoon. We didn’t expect anyone to be in their rooms at that time, and we had been at an amusement park all day. The boys were rambunctious and needed to rest for a while. When the front desk contacted us my wife explained that we were sorry and that we would do all we could to keep the boys quiet. She then explained that Konner has autism and it was hard at times. The man working explained that he understood and would try to help in any way he could.
Allow your child to explore the hotel room. Konner has to check out every place we go to. It can take him a while to just make his way around a room to try and get comfortable. Just let them get it out of their system. If you don’t let them investigate it can make things worse in the long run.
Maintain whatever semblance of routine that is possible. This means, if you usually take a bath at 8 p.m. then try to do that at the same time in the hotel. If they go to bed afterward then try to do that. Routines are what drive children on the spectrum most of the time.
Accept that some things may not go as planned. This is the one I have the most problem with. I want things to go as smoothly as possible and when they don’t I feel like I’ve failed to do my job as a parent, which is to keep as much peace and structure as possible. I forget that this is not possible all the time and that things are going to go wrong.
Nothing is perfect, but these tips might help you to have a little better stay next time you are out of time.
Kodey Toney, M.Ed.
Pervasive Parenting Center