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BellaOnline's Autism Spectrum Disorders Editor

Autism Encounters – Promoting Awareness

This past spring break I took both my sons on our first vacation - some may call it a mini vacation since it only lasted four days! We went to Sea World via Amtrak from Los Angeles to San Diego. We had many autism encounters during our four-day excursion. The first one started at the train station in Los Angeles. My non-verbal son was wearing an autism shirt that caught the attention of a father and son in line for the same destination. The son was a few years older than my ten-year old, but they hit it off quickly talking about Sea World. It just so happens that this boy has Asperger's Syndrome (AS).

While in line at the ticket counter the first day at Sea World my younger son was wearing a different autism shirt. A father with two children spotted the shirt, informing us he was visiting with his family from Alaska. His wife was coming later with two other children - one that also was on the Autism Spectrum. This father had a thirst for knowledge, eagerly asking questions of the former autism teacher I hired to help me out for two days at Sea World. She was happy to give him her business card as we all walked over to the Dining with Shamu area for breakfast.

When visiting the Dolphin area of Sea World a young girl walked by and make a remark about my son's t-shirt, saying "Gee, you have to tell the whole world!" Something about the way the girl just blurted this out made me think she may also be on the Autism Spectrum.

The party in line in front of us at the restaurant we chose for lunch learned quite a bit about autism after yelling at my son for roaming the line. They thanked me for taking the time to explain autism and my son to them.

We were at the train station in San Diego waiting for our train to be called to form a line when my nonverbal son found the paperback book section of a vendor inside the station. He casually picked one up and skipped about the station to the dismay of the clerk. He indicated this was not allowed, so I mentioned that my son has autism and was not aware and I would try my best. The family in line in front of us had a son on the Spectrum, which she noted after hearing me speak of my son.

While our mini-vacation was a thrill for my children, it also showed me that many other families with children on the Autism Spectrum are visiting the same places, blending in with other families. It is nice to bring awareness to the forefront while also meeting other families and not feeling so alone in this journey.

I spent months planning and discussing this trip with my children to prepare them and myself. I will be sharing tips, the train ride experience along with a review of the Hotel and Sea World in the coming days. I highly suggest hiring someone in the area you will be visiting to help you maneuver the surroundings. With another adult who happened to be experienced with Autism Spectrum Disorders both my children were able to enjoy the experience.

It was such a success we are planning on doing it again next spring break.

** Please note - A child on the Autism Spectrum qualifies for half price entrance fee at Sea World. An accompanying adult also will get in for half price. You will need to go to the ticket window to purchase your tickets each day. Do not buy the two-day tickets for one day since you can save more by going to the ticket and getting the discount the same day.

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Content copyright © 2013 by Bonnie Sayers. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Bonnie Sayers. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Tara O´Gorman, MSW for details.

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