REVIEW: Dawn Barclay — Travelling Different: Vacation Strategies for Parents of the Anxious (BOOK)
“While researching this book, I was struck by how many of the families I spoke with had children both on and off the spectrum within the same household. Several told me how the modifications they’d made for one child often helped the other.
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The truth is that children are creatures of habit, and travel is a disruption of everyday life. For that reason, even neurotypical children may need some hand-holding when venturing far from home,” writes Dawn Barclay in her new book, Travelling Different: Vacation Strategies for Parents of the Anxious, the Inflexible, and the Neurodiverse. “…The key is to not be put off by the term ‘special needs’ and to be open to whatever might soothe the hiccups of travel for all family members.
One bonus: implementing modifications for everyone might make the anxious, inflexible, or neurotypical child feel less ‘different’ and alone…Parents suggest that introducing travel on a local level can be as simple as reading timetables at a nearby train station or bus stop, visiting a nearby museum or farm, reframing a day of garage sale shopping as a ‘treasure or scavenger hunt,’ apple picking at the neighborhood orchard, taking a hike or bike ride together, enjoying a picnic lunch, or even setting up a tent and sleeping bags in the backyard. It’s a way to slowly bring new experiences into children’s lives without disrupting their entire routine.”
It’s through this enormously generous, empathetic prose that Barclay is able to carefully shoehorn in facts, statistics, and left-brain methodology in a manner that feels narratively seamless. She also provides in-depth, personalized examples and scenarios, furthering the reader’s sense of both empowerment and empathy — especially if he or she is themselves a parent potentially within this complex predicament.
This is reflected in passages highlighting things one wouldn’t normally expect to find in a book of this nature, yet simultaneously affirming Barclay genuinely knowing her stuff, and wanting the reader to come away from the book as informationally empowered as possible. “The International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) warns travelers of the distinction between autism-friendly businesses and those that are autism certified.
While many travel destinations across the globe may claim to be ‘autism friendly,’ the IBCCES says that in reality they may be not properly trained and prepared to accommodate individuals on the spectrum because ‘they may not understand perhaps the most important part about understanding autism: that every person with autism is different. . . . This generally has an effect on social interaction and social perception, but the degree that a person is affected in each area (and even with different senses) varies significantly from person to person,’” Barclay cites. “…Before booking any trip, Tara Woodbury of Escape into Travel in Leland, North Carolina, advises parents to familiarize themselves with what special needs programs and accommodations are offered both on flights and at their destination.
‘Most if not all companies [employ] someone whose job it is to help families with special needs,’ she says. Depending on the age of the child and where they are on the spectrum, she recommends considering something like an Autism on the Seas cruise…or a resort with staff trained in helping kids on the spectrum stay safe and enjoy their vacation…”