Camping with Autism

Discussion in 'Camping for the Medically/Physically Challenged' started by TheMillers, Apr 26, 2009.

  1. monica4patience

    monica4patience New Member

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    It's good to hear that so many of you are having successful camping trips with your special needs kids. DH and I had camped for years before the kids arrived and enjoyed camping when the youngest 2 were young. But by the time DS17 was in grade school it became very difficult to camp with him. He wasn't diagnosed until just before 5th grade and we rarely camped until he finally stabilized in 10th grade! We just couldn't deal with his symptoms in a public way: anger, rage, foul language, hitting, spitting, etc. Once he was diagnosed and medicated it became easier. He was dx with Bipolar, Tourette's, ADHD, OCD, anxiety, and recently Austic spectrum.

    We just purchased a pop-up (moved up from tenting) and he did just great on a week-long trip. We've decided against traveling and visiting different campgrounds. We'll just continue to camp at the private CG that my parents summered at for over 20 years. DS17 is comfortable there, he's familiar with the layout, the people (owners, workers and seasonal people) know him; so it's a win-win for us.

    ~Monica
     
  2. weck

    weck New Member

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    My daughter who will be 2 in Oct who was born without a thyroid and also was diagnosed with Autism will be camping with us this weekend. she has only went once before and she seemed to really like it. They believe her to have high functioning Autism. Will let you know how it goes.
     
  3. NorthernCamper

    NorthernCamper New Member

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    Well the camping season here in Northern Alberta is pretty much done.

    DS seemed to have a blast with camping and the trailer itself.

    4 Weekends, and a 2 week vacation pulling the trailer and camping for 9 out of 14 days.

    Unfortunately, DW is thinking we need a bigger trailer with a full bathroom now. And I'm not entirely convinced she's wrong... but I'm fighting that urge. [}:)]

    Things that were a necessity:

    • Portable DVD Player
    • Toys he identifies with (he has a vtech computer that he loves... maybe too much)
    • Anything CARS [:D]
    • Locking the front door -- freepopup called that one
    • Lots of visits to parks
    • Lots of walks

    sometimes too much movies I think... but the Autism diagnosis is new to us (less than a year) so it's something for the family to work through. Overall a success I think [;)]
     
  4. mrsk

    mrsk New Member

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    We recently went camping with good friends who usually left their son home when they went camping. (He has SO/ age 4) We encouraged them to bring him and we would "help out" wherever we could. The mom had a more difficult time than the boy - who did GREAT!

    What we learned is that it helps to camp in a group so there are lots of eyes on him, and it gives the parents a break. We allowed him to explore on his own (while we watched) and not introduce or force activities on him - basically let him choose what he would do. He ended up trying new foods, not caring that he had dirt on him, and slept like a rock. On day 2 his tolerance span was getting shorter and shorter, and that's where providing a quiet, familiar place was important. (It was of all places, in his car seat in the car!) By day 3, he said he wanted to go home, but cried because he didn't want to leave! We all had a wonderful time and hope to camp together again soon!
     
  5. NorthernCamper

    NorthernCamper New Member

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    Most definitely camping with others makes things way easier.

    Only about 3 days this year were we by ourselves.
     
  6. screwballl

    screwballl Stimulus Package

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    Our daughter follows in my footsteps with something I have coined "subdued autism"... its noit Aspergers or ADD or ADHD, it is more of a chemical imbalance in the brain that misfires only at certain times. She is at her worst when she is tired. The rest of the time she is hyper, EXTREMELY smart and caring. When she is at the worst, she is just as bad as others has explained here. When she is somewhere unfamiliar, she explores, sometimes without us knowing which causes issues sometimes but I have learned to just let her go sometimes, we always stay at small CGs so little to no chance of getting lost.
    As long as we let her explore some at the beginning or stay at a familar CG, she is fine the rest of the time (except just before bed like most nights).
     
  7. ChrisandRich

    ChrisandRich New Member

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    I am a speech pathologist and have worked with many children with autism. You have gotten much good advice that I would also say, similar routines to home, forewarnings of changes in routines, locks, etc. Also Social Stories are very useful it shaping desired outcomes. You can write a little story about your trip. Something like
    "I am going camping with my family. I will sleep in the popup. I will alway stay with someone in my family. I might hear loud noises, dogs, etc (things that are triggers for him), if I do, I know my Mom/Dad will help me. I can go in my popup if I am feeling scared. Camping will be fun." Generally they are written in terms of desired behaviors not ones you don't want, as in "I won't yell". These can be read over and over before hand and reviewed along the way while camping. Pictures will help. I'm sure you will have many happy trips ahead of you!
    Chris
     
  8. gatorbait

    gatorbait Upstate, SC

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    My PDDNOS son LOVED the outdoors. We camped with him several times with no problems and we all had really great times. He was the wandering type and had to have a shadow on him non stop. It helped if we were camping with others and could switch out because he did not stay still. He was the fearless type that would walk into traffic and into water (that eventually got him killed). You know if you have this type. We did put a neon orange Tyvek band on him with the campsite info/cell #s just in case he somehow got away. You can get them on ebay for 2-3$ real cheap. I would make sure that the popup was locked up tight at night where he could not get out at any age. I also brought familiar bedding and toys and kept naps and foods the same as home. I would think that they would more than likely act the same at the campground as they act at the supermarket and restaurants and prepare for that. Preparation is key. [2C]
     
  9. NH-popper

    NH-popper Boldly going camping!

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    DW pointed me to this site - she works with a group that promotes independent living and assistance for people with disabilities..

    http://www.ncpad.org/fun/fact_sheet.php?sheet=46&section=165

    Hope it helps!
     
  10. KimJ

    KimJ New Member

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    My 5 year old has autism. She has enjoyed camping a lot! We have to give her advance notice of things and watch out for the signs of a melt-down, just like at home. She will not use an outhouse, so we must be somewhat near the bathrooms because when she has to go, she has to go. The hardest part is her tendency to take off after something she's seen or wants. She can be gone in a second. I had someone watching her for 5 minutes and a nice camper walked my daughter back to me from a few camp sites away! We bungie the door shut so she can't get out at night without waking us up. We also bring her favorite things from home for comfort and distractions. Her new thing is going to the neighbors and just walking in their homes. Hopefully she doesn't do that camping! We'll see next weekend!
     
  11. vincent228

    vincent228 Member

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    My 9 year old daughter is autistic. diagnosed "asperger", so she is high funtioning.
    when we bought our pup (for her mostly), she couldnt wait to go camping.
    unfortunately, our pup turned ot to be a rot bucket.
    so i now have to rebuild the entire thing.
    and as anyone with an autistic child know, when they get a thought in their head, they will keep asking.
    so every spare moment has been put into rebuilding it.
    i cant wait to see the look on her face the first time we go.
     
  12. monica4patience

    monica4patience New Member

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    Here it is another year later and more fun times camping. DS is now 18, a recent HS graduate. We camped at our same CG for 2 weeks. Boys made lots of friends, had a grand time, and begged me to come back. We left the PUP here for a few days while we went back home and took DD20 to college. We've been back at the CG for another 1-1/2 weeks. (go home tomorrow! [:(])

    I've had lots of compliments on helpful DS18 is with the elderly and with younger kids. He's helped around the CG with setting up for activities.

    He brought his laptop and that helped when he needed alone time. We've hardly had any problems in the 30 days we've camped. He's gotten into a routine. He's actually even been very helpful since DH is back at work this past week. He's taken care of the ice in the cooler, keeping the water jug filled and iced; taken down awning when it got too windy; strung clothesline; and learned to play scrabble.

    We're scheduled for a month next year!
     
  13. takeAhike

    takeAhike New Member

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    Although this is an old topic, I'm glad I found it. I have a 6 year old high functioning autistic son that LOVES camping. But we eased him into it. We started in '07 by visiting a lot of nature preserves and state parks, just spending the day hiking & picnicking. At that time, he was classic autism, 3 years old, and was easily overwhelmed. We would start each trip by preparing him for what we were doing, and also "brushing" him that helped center him, so to speak. Our biggest obstacle was hiking a 3 mile hike at Turkey Run SP, when he freaked out over exposed roots on the trail. He climbed up his sister, and refused to set foot on the ground again. But over time he got back into it, so we introduced tent camping in '09. He loved it! Of course he had been through many therapies by this time and made big improvements in what he could handle. We've spent the past two summers tent camping, the only thing that overwhelms him now is if I push him to hard on long hikes! This year we went to an RV show, and he loved exploring the campers. We were specifically looking at PUPs, so each one we came to, he ran inside before we could stop him. So when I brought one home two weeks ago, he was extremely excited, made me put it up right then and there. It is awaiting our first camping trip later this month, and he's counting down the days.
    I know I'm lucky to have a little guy that absolutely loves nature.
     
  14. tess1

    tess1 New Member

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    I realize this is an old thread, but in case this helps someone else, I decided to weigh in. I spent more than 10 years working with an organization that took developmentally disabled kids and adults on camping trips. We had a fixed summer camp, as well as did year round weekend and spring break, etc. camping trips to various locations. The campers had a huge range of developmental disabilities, but many, many were severely autistic. We found that with some sensitivity to noise, changing environments and other triggers, that there was no reason they couldn't have very successful camping experiences.

    I would definitely encourage you all to try, make adjustments if needed, and try again.

    All the best!

    Tess
     
  15. espresso

    espresso New Member

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    Father of a 15yr old autistic son here. Just got done with our first ever camping in a popup. We had a FANTASTIC time, I can't say enough how much we enjoyed it. Myself grew up camping and some of my fondest memories, since my son was born we had tent camped a few times, but never seemed the best time for my son who'd spend most of time just laying in the tent playing with toys. Well I decided to buy a popup, found one I liked that needed some work and got it, specifically cause it had A/C. Well I brought it home and spent a month working on it, while my wife talked it up to my boy, getting him excited about it being his camper. He loved it first time he got to go inside it and immediately claimed 'his' bed and jumped up into it. Well I spend alot of time getting it all ready, so much so that wife asked lil CD where dad worked and he replyed 'on the camper?' hehe. Well few days leaded up we'd ask him what where we were going in few days and he'd get excited and say 'camping!'. Well on the maden voyage we all loaded up and headed to the camp. He loved every minute, was soo happy entire trip. He had refridgerator, microwave, lights, A/C, Cd player, and spent first eve setting at the dinnet under the light playing with cards and drawing like his own pad. Then even put himself to bed saying 'time for bed', and slept like a babe. The next day we went to nature center, then to my suprise grabbed me by the hand and took off practically dragging me behind and headed down a nature path. I had no idea where we were going but I wanted to see where he'd go and let him enjoy the freedom to just wonder. He took me on a 1 mile hike (I wasn't expecting at all mind you), singing and chattering the entire time. Then we went swimming and back to the camp where this time he sat around the camp fire entire eve with us. He even wanted to stay longer. We had a wonderful picture perfect time, I encourage everyone especially with austic children to have as great adventure as we did!

    Photos and trip recap at: http://www.popupportal.com/index.php?topic=47746.msg360121#msg360121
     
  16. Orchid

    Orchid Sharp Shootin' Grandma

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    That's wonderful. Your entire post made my day! :) It's so awesome to find things that autistic kids enjoy. It's amazing to that he wanted to explore and hike, I know it must have felt great for you.

    Now that he is comfortable with the camper and experience, he will be able to go lots of new places with the pup as familiar comfort. I hope you enjoy many more years of camping and adventures with your son.
     
  17. altamum

    altamum New Member

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    Was reading about Autism therapies the other day, and in the book is "Nature therapy". To me, also known as camping!
    My 5 yr old son has PDD-NOS, and he loves camping. The pup is ideal. It's a familiar environment when we're in an unfamiliar place and he seems to be able to embrace the change easier, rather than being stressed by it.
    To make it all easier, we preplan as much as possible, and prepare him by talking about where we're going, what will be there, etc (sometimes months in advance).
    Our trips don't always run smoothly, but we take it all in stride, try to figure out what will help calm him down and make a note for next time.
     
  18. Xolthrax

    Xolthrax Franconia, Pa.

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    That's a great story! Thanks for sharing. I think a little "nature therapy", as altamum put it, is good for everyone. I hope you have many more wonderful camping experiences like this one.
     
  19. vincent228

    vincent228 Member

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    My 10 year old daughter is an aspie.
    her issue is "trying" to make freinds.
    we just came back from our maiden voyage where she was ignored, snubbed, and walked away from by several kids that seemed to be the "pack" that stays the entire season.

    i guess their sheltered lives have drained them of empathy toward others.

    what a shame.
     
  20. BratsMuttsNFish

    BratsMuttsNFish New Member

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    My 8 yr old Avery loves to go camping. He has autism and adhd. He especially likes to be in charge of all the cranking (which is fine by me). [:D]
     

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