When it came to our oldest son’s twenty-first birthday I decided that a life-time experience would be best – and that meant travel. After a lot of thought I decided on a surprise trip to Iceland. Having Asperger’s Syndrome and never have flown before, myself and my husband decided that it would be best if I took him on his own. This also meant there was no distraction from the needs of The Sensory Seeker and that the focus was on the birthday boy.
Asperger’s and a Surprise Trip to Iceland
I think we are fortunate enough that our son has come on such a long way, therefore we did not have to prepare him about the trip far in advance. This isn’t going to be the case for a lot of individuals on the autistic spectrum who do not like surprises or generally changes in their routine. If you are taking someone who needs to be prepared then do find out as much information as you can, and prepare visual aids to help them comprehend it all.
It was actually a sort of surprise up until 3 days before we left (when his brother accidentally blurted it out!). Only a sort of surprise because he knew some details, so that he had some manageable bits – and he guessed the rest. I simply asked him to make sure he had his swimming trunks and winter coat. In fact I am really proud that he worked it out from just those two clues – that and the fact that’s where his friends had been. Slowly other details of my plans were leaked out before the big day – so that he was as prepared as could be and was able to ask any questions he had (in his own way). I could also tell him things – such as about not getting his hair wet in The Blue Lagoon (and he was okay about wearing a swim hat). Again he really surprised me because he had read up and spoke to his friends about this type of thing when he had guessed he was going.
Packing was challenging even though we would only be gone for one whole day. I guess a lot of it is the unexpected – knowing it would be colder, but not really how much. The uncertainty of whether what was being packed would be alright. After a whole of day of trying on combinations of clothes and making piles the decision on what to take (and for which day) was made and the cases were packed. I explained what would happen as regards the airport with particular focus on getting through security. This included making sure he knew what would go in the trays and we had what we could put in one bag to make it easier to take out. Also that he could be called over for further checks – but that these were just random and nothing to worry about. We flew Business Class on the way out and I would say if you can afford it then do it, it made things so much easier: From fast lane check-in and the airport lounge – to how we were treated on-board (although it did make for some awkward social moments such as when we were given white flannels before food). There was a lot of time spent in toilets and I am sure this was anxiety more than anything – and generally just needing to give him more time to be ready before we went anywhere.
I do recommend having things planned at least loosely – and we had a Northern Lights Mystery Tour and a trip to The Blue Lagoon booked. We did not see the Northern Lights (which is why I took him there in the first place) but it was nice to spend some time together and experience such a wonderful place. In hindsight I wish I had booked the meals (we only had breakfast included) but we seem to have managed okay (note Iceland has lots of KFC, Subway and Pizza). We both agreed that right now Iceland isn’t the place for The Sensory Seeker so it is a good job we went alone. Iceland was very dark and cold – with a strong sulphuric smell most of the time.
If you have any questions about a first flight for an adult with Asperger’s Syndrome then do pop them in the comment box below – we may be able to help. Or if you have any tips I am sure other readers will appreciate reading them. There was a special assistance at the airport but we did not take advantage of this service.