Traveling can be tough for anyone with autism, as well as for those who are traveling with them. You can still have plenty of fun exploring new places if you prepare for your trip before you go. As with everything in autism, preparation is key. Spend some time on researching how to have an autism-friendly experience in your chosen location. Nashville, TN, is a fun and vibrant place to visit, and there are plenty of people working to make it a better city for people who have autism.
Finding the Right Place to Stay
Choosing somewhere to stay can be the first tough step for an autism-friendly vacation. When you’re choosing a hotel in Nashville, you need to ask questions that pertain to your family. If anyone in your family or group uses a wheelchair or has a service dog, check the accessibility statement for the hotel. Hotels like the Courtyard Nashville West End should have accessible rooms and allow service animals. You might want to consider things like how much control you have over the room. Can you dim the lights or turn the thermostat up, down or off? Is it close to the attractions you plan to visit? Nashville has a plethora of choices in all parts of the city. Make a list of things that are important to you and don’t negotiate on them. A deal breaker for us would be whether wifi is available. Logan needs wifi to watch Youtube after a long day. No wifi means we don’t stay there.
Family Fun Activities
Like many cities, Nashville is making some great strides in offering family-friendly events and places to visit. Some places have been working with autism charities to make adjustments to the experiences they offer to make them more autism-friendly. For example, the Nashville Zoo holds an Autism Awareness Day event each year, and they have made efforts to make their exhibits inclusive and offer tools and support. They have materials such as visual schedules, and they provide quiet areas. Studying ancient history? Visit a life size replica of the Parthenon. Got a teenager learning personal finance? Go to Ramsey Solutions to meet Dave Ramsey as well as see him tape his radio show. Bonus is that they will feed you hot cookies and coffee for free.
“Grown Up” Things to Do
Not everyone wants to do things designed for children or families, autism or not. If you want some more adult activities to do, there are a few options you might explore. Some autism-friendly events can offer some options. For example, a recent screening of Star Wars The Last Jedi by Autism Tennessee offered fun for everyone. The Frist Center for the Visual Arts offers quiet areas should you need a break. Like Nashville Zoo, Cheekwood Estate and Gardens has partnered with Vanderbilt Kennedy Center’s TRIAD organization to make it an autism-friendly location. You can find a visual schedule card and other useful materials to prepare for your visit on their website. You are in Music City so the Grand Ole Opry is a fun choice although noise canceling headphones are a must for your sensory child.
Getting Around Nashville
If you want to get around Nashville, the best thing to do may be to rent a car or drive your own. There are public transport options available. If your child is used to this option then it would be an economical choice. Remember that your child will be navigating new sights, sounds and experiences. Being able to leave a place immediately to retreat to a quiet car can be the difference between success and failure on vacation. Do yourself a favor and rent a car or bring your own. There have been times when Logan and I will go out to the car for a few minutes to relax and recharge while the others continue with the experience. We then rejoin them when Logan is able to reset. If that never happens then we simply wait for the others to come to us.
Do not hesitate to take your child on trips. The more you do it , the easier it gets. You understand your child better as well as what works and what doesn’t. The great part about Nashville is that there is something to see even if you are simply walking down the street. Take deep breaths and know that ending the experience successfully is always more important than anything else.