Summer is here and it’s time to explore

Summer is typically a time for vacations.

Although our budget this year doesn’t support outside of Texas travel, we are looking forward to taking long weekends to San Antonio, Galveston, and Dallas over this summer.

Nothing interesting enough for travel magazines, but a major victory for a child that was unable to leave our house just a decade ago. Our first trip ever was 10 years ago this summer so in my next blog I’m going to reflect on the changes and evolution of our son’s progress in that decade of taking trips, small and large.

 

 

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San Antonio Way

As San Antonio is within an hour or so of our house, it is one of our favorite (and easiest) vacation destination. Each summer, if my son has “earned” it, through reaching his behavior goals (don’t tell him, but we arrange it to where he is always able to earn it!) we travel to a close-by hotel for a night away.

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La Cantera Resort, San Antonio, photo from Destinations Resorts

This summer, as with last summer, the travel fates smiled upon us and I was able to find a Groupon Coupon for a $149/night room mid-week at this gorgeous resort–La Cantera Resort, San Antonio. 

We swam, ate by the pool, took a beautiful nature hike on the hotel’s trails that wind around the golf course (NOTE: These trails are not ADA accessible.), and enjoyed a spa treatment. Yes, you read that correctly. My son requested a spa treatment “for a man” he said. So, we used the WoodHouse Day Spa services that are right on site. They were able to accommodate a child with special needs as long as I was present in the treatment room. My son chose a calming 30-minute hot oil scalp massage ($45). He was in heaven. It seems extravagant, but truly, it calmed him so much that it was worth it. Those of you with autistic kids know that calming their minds and bodies is a big part of the experience of parenting our special children.

We were able to secure a late check-out the next morning and then sadly said goodbye to our 24 hours of bliss at La Cantera. Hasta next summer La Cantera! 

The Zoo is a Zoo

Spring break is always rough for my son. I’m pretty sure he fits the usual autism profile of needing year-round school (oh, one can dream) and structured down time. It gets exhausting as a parent to run a week-long camp for a child with a short attention span, but if you’re going to survive the school breaks, you’ve got to do it.

After our spring break devolved from a much-anticipated ski trip to Park City (lingering bronchitis caused me to cancel), then to a stay at a Hill Country resort outside of San Antonio (reservations messed up our reservation), we settled on going to the San Antonio zoo for one of the days.

The San Antonio Zoo is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2014 and it’s undergoing a great deal of new construction. It would be gorgeous and interesting if most of San Antonio had not also descended on the zoo on a stunningly beautiful mid-70s temperature Tuesday during spring break.

I would recommend not taking people no the autism spectrum to this zoo during spring break. It doesn’t have nearly enough space for the wanderings that people on the spectrum usually need and everyone is packed in there pretty close. It’s a great concept for neurotypical folks who want to be immersed in the experience, but not so good if you have autism and can get overwhelmed as my son was for our two-hour tour.

The zoo’s layout breaks a few of the cardinal rules for the needs of autism–there is no escape from the labyrinth once you’re in it. The African exhibits are great, but there is no “out of Africa”. Once you’re in this exhibit, you’re stuck and have to go all the way through it to exit. One of my cardinal rules for autism travel is, “Always have an escape route planned.” And the San Antonio Zoo, though lovely and interesting for typical brains, doesn’t provide this kind of leaving and returning that an autism brain sometimes needs to calm down and regroup.

And on this outing, I broke one of my own cardinal rules for autism travel, “Don’t visit places on the busiest days/times.” The zoo was packed that day for good reason–the weather was great and it was a school holiday. I have learned and continue to learn that you cannot travel with autism when it’s most convenient but when you have the greatest chance for success.

Because sometimes the zoo can be a real, well, zoo.