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Overlanding and Autism

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Jrodrigues1278

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Hi all,

I have been on the forum for a while but this is my first post. I have read a ton of great information here but have not seen much on this topic.

How many of the members have or do overland with children with autism? I have a 5 year old son who was diagnosed this year. He loves being outdoors. He is non-verbal, fear-less and full of energy.

For those who have, what advice and/or warnings can you provide from your experiences?

Thanks ahead of time!
 

Road

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I don't have personal experience of overlanding with anyone autism, though have friends who do a lot of outdoor stuff with kids of varying abilities. I know another van guy with a daughter who he takes out adventuring all the time, though he's not on adventure forums that I know of; I see him on instagram all the time. If you're on there, @Jrodrigues1278, look me up @roaddude and I'll point you to his account.

Seems I know another fellow who takes his autistic son out camping and adventuring too, a little older than your, I think, and if I remember who/where he is, I'll ask him if he minds being contacted.

Here's an OB search, too, for "autism" that yields a few posts mentioning kids with autism. You might have to pick through them a bit, though may find something worthwhile in there:



Good luck, I'm sure getting him out there more will be a wonderful thing!


Stay safe, stay clean, stay positive!
 
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Jrodrigues1278

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@Road

Thanks for the info! much appreciated!

I converting from offroading to overlanding, and looking to build out a new JT (hopefully diesel) in the near future. Planning the rig around being able to one day travel the TAT with him.
 

Road

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@Road

Thanks for the info! much appreciated!

I converting from offroading to overlanding, and looking to build out a new JT (hopefully diesel) in the near future. Planning the rig around being able to one day travel the TAT with him.
.

Well, you and you boy are always welcome to come camp near me for a night or two, if you like. I used to teach a lot of creative workshops for kids and had all level of abilities. Getting special needs kids outdoors has always been a good thing for them, in my experience.

bbrlm-190316-crop-2721-900.jpg

Stay safe, stay clean, stay positive!



.
 

Jrodrigues1278

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Much appreciated @Road ... I just followed you from my two IG accounts.

I will definitely keep that I mind once I start building the rig and getIng out there!
 
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TahoePPV

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your son sounds like a boy that was in scouts with my son. His dad tried to expose him to as much as possible. We did several camp outs together. He did very well.
 
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Jrodrigues1278

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your son sounds like a boy that was in scouts with my son. His dad tried to expose him to as much as possible. We did several camp outs together. He did very well.
That is good to hear. I have very optimistic that he will love it. Going to start with some very basic camping trip and based on how he does, grow the experience for him. I have been looking to see if there is a special “scouts” for kids like him with no success.

We are hoping to get him a service dog one day based on how he progresses with services the next few years. He already loves dogs so we think it will be great for him. However I will save that for another thread.
 
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CTDRC

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OP,

I've been lurking the forum for months, but decided to register just because I'm in the same boat with you and hopefully can help.

I've been taking my son camping/overlanding, boating, and all since he was about 2 and he was diagnosed about a year ago. My son is hyper verbal, so that's a difference, but he struggles with impulse control and other things typical kids do, but just a bit more so. Like yours, he loves the outdoors, is full of energy, and very fearless. He's a bit over 4 now and he begs to go on camping trips constantly. "Sleeping in the truck" is on his short list of favorite things to do.

In a lot of ways, getting to this point was a struggle. He has an irrational fear of bugs - his only fear to date, potty training is difficult for him (hopefully you're out of these woods!), getting him to settle down while sharing a space with me led to a few sleepless nights (he has been sleeping in his room since he was a baby). However, I adore the time we spend together and being in the woods is a time where he can be his autistic-and-otherwise self. It's a sanctuary for him now, like it is for me and it's awesome. Totally worth the hassle. Now to some tips.

Have realistic expectations for the first few trips: I knew I should have done this, but after he handled fishing and boating so well at 2, i thought he'd be ready for a trip to my hunting land to camp. After a 3 hour car ride with truck problems (turned 10 hours), hours of screaming about the dark just to turn a light on then scream about the bugs it attracted, after the struggle of setting up camp while my dad struggled to contain him, and after finally settling down just to realize at 3AM that he couldn't sleep sharing a tent with me and I couldn't sleep sweating all over him (summer was a rough choice) I realized what I should have done.

I should have eased him into it. Replicate whatever camping setup you're going to do on the trailp in your backyard, a lot. If it's too hard for either of you, bail to the house and try again the next night or whenever. Once that works, go to a camp site nearby and make it a night or two. Build to a goal and get there, together. Like anything else in regards to their autism, I find when it's on my schedule I stress us both out. When it's on his, we still have fun.

Once acclimated to sleeping and eating in those conditions, that's a big battle won. As far as safety, my kiddo listens better to me in the unknown and we just built on that. He takes safety in the woods seriously because I do, but I just played what I know about my boy, here. I did enforce holding hands until I showed him thorny bushes, loose rocks, and other hazards. Once he got that down, slowly I let him do it in his own. Now, he runs laps around me while we hike. This, unlike the actual camping, I did take slowly. Park trails while fishing accelerated him on this, we practiced him listening and walking safely and near me while I fished locally and it has translated to overlanding. Now, he can run off and gather kindling for fire starting around camp and I barely worry about him lol.

Then the last real thing that immediately comes to mind is to bring a sanctuary for him. For my kid, alone time, a form of confinement, and no bugs was very important to him. So, when I used to tent camp, I brought a tent that fit inside my tent and loaded it and a pack and play with toys to let him be free but safe and away from bugs - he was 2 at the time. Now that he's older, he gets some screen time in his carseat for a bit to calm his nerves. Or he sits in a camp chair with some toy trucks near me while I cook or whatever. But the things that bring your kid comfort at home, replicate them on the trail. I use this to help level set him often, and we always have a good time. I really mean that, the work is really in the past. I hate to admit this, but I used to long to camp or fish without him, to "relax" like I used to in the woods. But now, I can and do relax with him, and honestly don't want to go without him. But ya, that's about my best advice.

Except general kid advice: tons of favorite snacks, wipes, and stick/rock throwing.

I know this is all basic, but it worked for me and my boy. Hope it helps even a bit!

Also, despite the paragraphs of what I learned works for my kid, I really don't regret what I ultimately have always decided to do with my kid. Just go for it and learn along the way. I figured these things out, but ultimately, we still just went camping and in the woods a lot and he learned like any other kid but with a few other considerations that popped up along the way. Have fun!
 

Jrodrigues1278

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OP,

I've been lurking the forum for months, but decided to register just because I'm in the same boat with you and hopefully can help.

I've been taking my son camping/overlanding, boating, and all since he was about 2 and he was diagnosed about a year ago. My son is hyper verbal, so that's a difference, but he struggles with impulse control and other things typical kids do, but just a bit more so. Like yours, he loves the outdoors, is full of energy, and very fearless. He's a bit over 4 now and he begs to go on camping trips constantly. "Sleeping in the truck" is on his short list of favorite things to do.

In a lot of ways, getting to this point was a struggle. He has an irrational fear of bugs - his only fear to date, potty training is difficult for him (hopefully you're out of these woods!), getting him to settle down while sharing a space with me led to a few sleepless nights (he has been sleeping in his room since he was a baby). However, I adore the time we spend together and being in the woods is a time where he can be his autistic-and-otherwise self. It's a sanctuary for him now, like it is for me and it's awesome. Totally worth the hassle. Now to some tips.

Have realistic expectations for the first few trips: I knew I should have done this, but after he handled fishing and boating so well at 2, i thought he'd be ready for a trip to my hunting land to camp. After a 3 hour car ride with truck problems (turned 10 hours), hours of screaming about the dark just to turn a light on then scream about the bugs it attracted, after the struggle of setting up camp while my dad struggled to contain him, and after finally settling down just to realize at 3AM that he couldn't sleep sharing a tent with me and I couldn't sleep sweating all over him (summer was a rough choice) I realized what I should have done.

I should have eased him into it. Replicate whatever camping setup you're going to do on the trailp in your backyard, a lot. If it's too hard for either of you, bail to the house and try again the next night or whenever. Once that works, go to a camp site nearby and make it a night or two. Build to a goal and get there, together. Like anything else in regards to their autism, I find when it's on my schedule I stress us both out. When it's on his, we still have fun.

Once acclimated to sleeping and eating in those conditions, that's a big battle won. As far as safety, my kiddo listens better to me in the unknown and we just built on that. He takes safety in the woods seriously because I do, but I just played what I know about my boy, here. I did enforce holding hands until I showed him thorny bushes, loose rocks, and other hazards. Once he got that down, slowly I let him do it in his own. Now, he runs laps around me while we hike. This, unlike the actual camping, I did take slowly. Park trails while fishing accelerated him on this, we practiced him listening and walking safely and near me while I fished locally and it has translated to overlanding. Now, he can run off and gather kindling for fire starting around camp and I barely worry about him lol.

Then the last real thing that immediately comes to mind is to bring a sanctuary for him. For my kid, alone time, a form of confinement, and no bugs was very important to him. So, when I used to tent camp, I brought a tent that fit inside my tent and loaded it and a pack and play with toys to let him be free but safe and away from bugs - he was 2 at the time. Now that he's older, he gets some screen time in his carseat for a bit to calm his nerves. Or he sits in a camp chair with some toy trucks near me while I cook or whatever. But the things that bring your kid comfort at home, replicate them on the trail. I use this to help level set him often, and we always have a good time. I really mean that, the work is really in the past. I hate to admit this, but I used to long to camp or fish without him, to "relax" like I used to in the woods. But now, I can and do relax with him, and honestly don't want to go without him. But ya, that's about my best advice.

Except general kid advice: tons of favorite snacks, wipes, and stick/rock throwing.

I know this is all basic, but it worked for me and my boy. Hope it helps even a bit!

Also, despite the paragraphs of what I learned works for my kid, I really don't regret what I ultimately have always decided to do with my kid. Just go for it and learn along the way. I figured these things out, but ultimately, we still just went camping and in the woods a lot and he learned like any other kid but with a few other considerations that popped up along the way. Have fun!
@CTDRC wow thanks for all the advice. I see a lot of similarities in what you did and what I think I am going to do.
He has always put himself to sleep since I young age. I basically tell him its bed time and get him ready and off he goes. I have been blessed that he generally sleeps through the night as well. Like any other kid at times he tries to derail bed time by turning into a jokester, laughing hysterically while trying to get me to join the fun. It’s actually pretty funny and 2 out 3 times I can keep a straight face.

I do think the first few times in a tent with me will be interesting, and include a lot of laughs because he is super affectionate and loves to roughhouse while cracking himself up. The kind of laughter that can only be described as coming down from deep in his gut, where he is laughing so hard his eyes are closed because his smile is so wide. So yea sleeping will be interesting. He currently has a teepee in his room, so I plan to start there, transition to a small tent, then transition it outside, and keep growing it 1 step at a time.

I feel like the campsite will be complicated at first, but since he likes to help me with everything, I hope to have him occupied. Him running off is really my biggest concern.The first few times, my wife and daughter will join us. That way someone is always with him as he explores and gets used to the whole camping thing. The goal being that he slowly becomes more independent at camp. I am lucky that he enjoys car rides, loves to be in my truck and look out the window. Adding some screen time when needed.

I know what you mean by “relax”, and your absolutely right. As crazy as things can get, there is no place I would rather him be then by my side.
 

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J its great for you guys to get the boys out. I have a 23 yr old autistic son who leans more toward the Asbergers end of the spectrum. As a kid his grandparents took him camping all the time. I took him backpacking and tried to expose him to the outdoors as much as possible. Patience is key, get them out let them play, roam and explore at their pace. They all go at their own pace or comfort zone. Around other kids he would not really play with them but he was always watching and listening. We had to stay close to keep my son safe but let him explore as much as possible. Currently we try to take him still as much as we can or as much as a kid his age will hang out with his mom and dad. Fyi anything is possible my son actually lived in a dorm with other roomates and graduated with a degree in computer science. Every year of school we just supported him and hoped for the best. He slowly matured and improved. Socializing and friends are difficult but its a day by day gig
 

Jrodrigues1278

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@Flying pig wow that is so extremely awesome at your son graduating. I am hopefully my son will one day be able to as well, but if he does not that is ok too.

We are of the mindset that we will try to provide him the tools, experiences, and help he needs to do whatever he wants in life. I am already so proud of little side kick!
 
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Ubiety

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Great thread, thanks! Our son is 15 and on the high functioning end of the spectrum. Reading through these posts brings back so many memories, so many struggles and so much growth and victory. Hang in there - this too shall pass! It seems a common experience is that the kiddos will lag for a while and then grow incredibly in a short time, lather, rinse, repeat. This is certainly true of Joel.
I am blessed that Joel loves everything outdoor, camping, fishing, etc. and desires to do those activities. He loves to catch fish but won't touch or eat them :) Joel and I busted quarantine yesterday and took the Jeep to some water and gravel.

Biggest piece of advice that comes to mind, and others have said it, is having a "safe space" for your kid - however that manifests itself. @CTDRC mentioned the bug free sanctuary; for us it can be as simple as a promise of a good greasy cheeseburger in the near future. Always, always have activities waiting in the wing - I have found nothing stops an impending "tantrum" better than a redirection to some other activity well before the "tantrum" hits. I say "tantrum" loosely because it can manifest in different ways...

I have come to peace with Joel living at home forever; that was tough for me. He may or may not, dunno. He loves cars and hot-rods and can identify any car/truck. He serves as our family's memory bank :) One time I sent him a text with a pic of a rusted out hulk of an old car in a small "town" in Montana and within a minute he texted back the make and model. Joel has plans to go to auto trade school and open a customization shop and I am working towards moving to a more rural area - I can totally see building him a shop/home with us.

I won't get into it but Joel's mother (my wife) was a nurse and has been very involved. Feel free to send me a private message at any time if you think we might help answer questions or know of a family touched by autism who is in need.

@Flying pig - thank you for that report on your son's success! So meaningful to us, this is what we are currently pushing for. Brought a tear, really.

Tagging @Autism Family Travels
 

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That is good to hear. I have very optimistic that he will love it. Going to start with some very basic camping trip and based on how he does, grow the experience for him. I have been looking to see if there is a special “scouts” for kids like him with no success.

We are hoping to get him a service dog one day based on how he progresses with services the next few years. He already loves dogs so we think it will be great for him. However I will save that for another thread.
Actually, later when my son was doing robotics, another of the boys was on a different part of the spectrum. Both times it was an opportunity for the parents, and kids themselves, to do outreach and help the rest of us understand at least a little piece of their lives. I found it enlightening.
 

Jrodrigues1278

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First I have to say that I appreciate how you guys have alagares your stories with me and everyone else. I started this thread to find some activities to do outdoors with my son as we work up to overlanding but am getting so much more then I could have wishes for. Thank you all.

I am typically a very private person when it comes to my family, but sharing our family’s story just feels right. So here go (I will try to keep it short..lol):

My family is my world. I will start with my 10 year old daughter who is from my first marriage. She is the best role model for my son that I could ever ask for. She plans her life around being the best big sister in world. She is super smart, compassionate and wants to be an Occupational therapist when she grows up in order to help kids like her brother.

My wife has colon cancer that has spread to her liver. When she was diagnosed 4 years ago she was stage 4. If you do the math, she went through stages 1-3 during her pregnancy with my son. It wasn’t not until he was about 12-18 months old when she was diagnosed. 30+ operations / procedure later she is still fighting it. She is a warrior and will go for chemo the rest of her life.

My son, Ayden, hit all his growth markers up until 18-24 months. He had over 50 words and then started to regress. We immediately started early intervention, which then to me privately paying for Speech therapy 3 times a week. Then we added occupational therapy 2 times a week as we waited to see if we could provide him help. His pediatrician was never concerned. Then one day, we decided that we needed a new one. While being 1 year into a 2 year wait for an appointment to have him tested for Autism, the new pediatrician told us to request one from the school. 5 weeks later he was diagnosed, as we didn’t have to wait any longer.

Ayden has always shown an interest in Jeeps, trucks, dogs, fish, and anything he can do outside. Especially RUNNING and climbing. So the idea was born, stop rock crawling, start overlanding. I already was interested in it, so why not. So I decided this one is for him. Something we can do together, something we can grow into together. Ultimately be something we can do as afamily or just us two.

Sorry if that was a long read!
 

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@Jrodrigues1278 thanks for sharing! Funny thing about “our story” was that nurse mommy missed it and I was the one who noticed. It was his fascination with wheels and anything that went around in circles that got my attention. Lucky for us @Heidi was a nurse at the time at Seattle Children’s and Joel got in right away. A very normal childhood up until 2 or 3.

School has been tough for Joel and he is now on track in a private 1:1 academy.

Thanks all!
 

Jrodrigues1278

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@Greg Eigsti that’s awesome that Joel is back on track.

up until the Coronavirus, Ayden is receiving 1:1 and group speech and OT in school and then 1:1 speech and OT after school. He is I am ABA class right now with an amazing teacher and aide. We also get ABA therapy at home 6 days a week. He loves his TEAM and they have been great for him.

This distant learning, not so much.
 

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My son is 8 and has Autism. Im on Instagram @adventuringinautism.

He loves the outdoors and honestly its one of the only ways I can get him off electronics. It has been hard for me to go with groups because he does get very loud and is very hyper pretty much all day long. He also has no filter and says exactly what he thinks. He also suffers from really bad anxiety so anything outside his routine he pretty much shuts down.