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April 25, 2022

Episode 44: Traveling When Kids are Inflexible, Anxious or Neuro-Diverse with Dawn Barclay

In this episode, DJ speaks with travel expert, Dawn Barclay about traveling with children who are anxious, inflexible or neuro-diverse. She shares strategies to prepare your child before traveling and tips to try and avoid the chaos. Listen in as Dawn shares advice from her Summer 2022 book release about how to find autism friendly venues and ways to create familiarity and similarity when you and your child are in a strange new place.

Dawn M. Barclay is an award-winning author who has spent a career working in different aspects of the travel industry. Starting as an agent with her parents’ firms, Barclay Travel Ltd and Barclay International Group Short-Term Apartment Rentals, she then branched out into travel trade reporting with senior or contributing editor positions at Travel Agent Magazine, Travel Life,Travel Market Report, and most recently, Insider Travel Report. She is a mother of two and resides in New York’s scenic Hudson Valley. She also writes fiction as D.M. Barr and holds leadership roles in several writer organizations.

• [4:24] “Imagine being a young child going to the airport for the first time and having to wait in a long line for security, seeing adults around you acting oddly, people and packing their bags and removing articles of clothing before they end their belongings go through strange looking machines. All that combined with terrible lighting, lots of people and noise would create anxiety and a potential for meltdown in any child.”
• [5:35] Dawn speaks about neurodiverse children being sensitive to different input while traveling, like fluorescent lights, noise and more.
• [11:11] Dawn shares some advice about things you can plan for ahead of time to create a sense of familiarity to try and comfort your child when in a strange new place.
• [15:23] “Bring noise canceling headphones, so that the child can just eliminate a lot of that exterior sound that might be upsetting to them.”

Do you have tips to share for traveling with an inflexible, anxious or neuro-diverse child?  Tell us about it and tag us on Facebook or Instagram @littleheartsacademy!

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DJ Stutz
DJ Stutz:

Guest Information
Dawn Barclay


DJ Stutz  0:13  
You're listening to Episode 44 of Imperfect Heroes, Insights Into Parenting, the perfect podcast for imperfect parents looking to find joy in their experience of raising children in an imperfect world. I'm your host, DJ Stutz and traveling with kids is always an adventure. But even more so when you have a child that struggles with change, transitions, and having to sit still for an extended period of time. Dawn Barclay is the author of the book traveling different vacation strategies for parents that the anxious and flexible, and neurodiverse. And Dawn has spent a career working in different aspects of the travel industry, including being a travel trade reporter with Travel Agent Magazine, Travel Life, Travel Market Report, and most recently, Insider Travel Report. She's an award winning author and the mother of two children, and resides in New York's Scenic Hudson Valley. She also writes fiction, who know you'll find her under her nom de plume D.M. Bar. There's so much to learn. So let's get started.

I know that when we traveled with my son, who was very ADHD, we had to plan for things to keep him busy along with breaks. His siblings were sometimes a help, but they were sometimes a source of torment as well. Dawn Barclay has some great insights and wonderful ideas on how to give yourself and your child the best chance for success. So let's listen in. Dawn Barclay, welcome to Imperfect Heroes podcast, I'm so excited to have you here. And for my listeners who may not know Dawn is a travel expert. And she has a new book that will be coming out towards the end of this summer. And it is called Traveling Different Vacation Strategies for Parents of The Anxious, The Inflexible and The Neuro Diverse. So Dawn, welcome to Imperfect Heroes.

Dawn Barclay  2:38  
Well, thank you very much. I appreciate you having me on.

DJ Stutz  2:42  
I am really interested in some of your insight in traveling my experience, and I find that I work with kids who have some various learning differences, some neurodiversity. And I see though, that a lot of the strategies that I use with my little guys are also strategies that I have used with the typical kid. are typical kids get nervous and are they get scared, and they get distracted, and they have a lot of questions and they get bored and all of those things that the other kids did. Do you find that to be the case?

Dawn Barclay  3:26  
Absolutely. So one of the reasons that I titled the book the way I did, and throughout the book, people tend to point out, especially parents with one child on the spectrum and one child whose neuro typical, they point out that the strategies worked for both. I interviewed over 100 people for this book, it's not my story. It's the story of certified autism travel professionals, which are a group of people are trained specifically to help with children with invisible disabilities and families with somebody on the spectrum, as well as advocates, allies, mental health professionals and parents. And one of the CEA TPS or certified autism travel professionals. Her name is Jennifer Hardy, and she's with cruise planners in Kent, Washington, told me a little bit about what it's like for any child at an airport. So I'm just going to read from her quote, okay, imagine being a young child going to the airport for the first time and having to wait in a long line for security, seeing adults around you acting oddly, people and packing their bags and removing articles of clothing before they end their belongings go through strange looking machines. All that combined with terrible lighting, lots of people and noise would create anxiety and a potential for meltdown in any child. And I think that's really true.

DJ Stutz  4:53  
I do too. I travel a little bit just from my past and My current work that I do with coaching, and it's been interesting to me, I saw, this was probably seven months ago, I was in an airport and somebody had their dog with them. We're seeing that I think more and more, it seems to me. But this little guy was just afraid of dogs. And oh, lost it. Yeah. And I was interesting watching the mom tried to calm her down, and to help her work through it. But I think we have those same things with our neurodiverse kids.

Dawn Barclay  5:35  
Yeah, well, with neurodiverse children, not only are they very sensitive to different sensory input, the fluorescent lights might be upsetting to them, the noise, the carpeting on the floor, it's really going to depend on the child. But there are strategies for how to handle crowds that are included in the book, you might have one parent stay with the child in a quiet area, while the other one checks in. Same thing in a hotel, there are this technology now that can let you check in ahead of time and use your cell phone or your smartphone for your door key. And you can manage to skip the foyer and all the chaos of check in altogether. So those kinds of tips are included, you might even opt for a vacation rental instead of a hotel. Because then you're the only ones there. And you don't have to deal with a lot of noise outside in the hallway. So lots of different options for what you might do when you when you get to a destination. But I also cover everything from just the very beginning of thinking about travel, and how to prepare the child and how to maybe turn your staycation into a good preview of a vacation for a child. So you might turn a trip to a garage sale into a treasure hunt. You might just talk about how you're going to explore different cultures and go to an Italian bakery or a German bakery or a French restaurant and try to introduce the child to different cuisines. And you might introduce different words from just give them a sense that there are people in the world who experience things differently. You might do a camp out in the backyard, there's a lot you can do to sample a trip before you ever leave home.

DJ Stutz  7:26  
And that is such a great idea. And as you were talking I was even thinking about if you were going to go somewhere that maybe had waterpark, you know, the big ones. Yeah, they're always well, at least out here. I don't know, their community centers that have smaller pools, and they might have some some slides with it. So in that preparation for the bigger experience, what you suggested just here that made me kind of think of even taking it that direction. And so maybe sure planning ahead, of course what you're going to do, and then finding those smaller experiences.

Dawn Barclay  8:04  
Yep, zoo, or an aquarium, a tour of a local museum. All these can be previews of what's going to happen in the larger vacation, and your child can get used to working through what's going on. And you can see how that child reacts. It's since you mentioned theme parks, there are a number of them that are now accredited as certified autism centers by a group that credentials it's called IB, CCE S, which stands for the International Board of credentialing and continuing education standards. So they're one of several organizations that are certifying autism friendly, autism, certified locations, and there are others, but they seem to be the largest. And they also created the certified autism travel professional program. So there's a lot involved in what they do. And I discuss that in the book. But it's very important when a venue says that it's autism friendly to find out exactly what that means. And I also indicated in the book, I have a long list of different locations, you can go to whether it's a theme park, or a museum, or a hotel, or whatever, and they're either listed as a certified Autism Center, or they're listed as autism friendly. But I do indicate that you should do your due diligence either way, and find out what that really means for you and your child because only you know your child and what they need.

DJ Stutz  9:30  
That sounds like such a great resource. And I've never heard of this

Dawn Barclay  9:34  
before. Yeah, yeah, it's great to know that there are a number of different types of theme parks and aquariums and zoos that are going out of their way to cater to the neurodiverse community whether that means they've got quieter areas with less sensory stimulation, or they give you a map that tells you where the quieter areas are. It's a lot of training for the staff to know how to work with the child. You might have the ability like in Disney to keep your stroller with you, because you might need it. So I'm trying to remember what they call it stroller as wagon a stroller, maybe that's it. But in any case, they're allowed to bring things in that other people might not be able to bring in. Skip lines. Yeah, yeah. So there's, you'd have to find out for each location, there is a catalog put out by Autism And they list certified locations, I combine them with other locations. But that's a good starting place.

DJ Stutz  10:36  
That sounds like a great starting place. And I imagine there are similar associations for other types of disabilities, you know, like maybe blindness or deafness or

Dawn Barclay  10:49  
accessibility? Definitely. Yeah, for sure.

DJ Stutz  10:52  
That's a great thing to know. So maybe you can give us let's start at the beginning. And you're just starting to think about it. It's time for a break, we need to get added down. Yeah, what are some of the first things that you think we should start looking at? At the very beginning?

Dawn Barclay  11:11  
Well, you're going to know your child, you're going to know how far they're going to be able to travel, some travel professionals say why not go to a friend's house in a different town. And stay with them for a day somebody who's very understanding, and has a guest room and see how the child adjusts to being sleeping in a different environment and what they need. Because you might find that you're going to need to bring certain things with you. When you go further afield, for example, some people recommend bringing a fan with you, which will drown out any noise in the hall. If a hotel doesn't have a bathtub, and only has a shower, one mother suggests bringing one of those blow up small pools, so that you can inflate it when you get there. And you can fill it with water. And that way, if the child will only take a bath you've adapted, some people ring certain lighting that the child knows from home so that the room is going to be as similar away as it might be when you're home, or bring toiletries that you use from home. So the scent is familiar, right. So all those are things you're going to find if you just take the small trip to a friend's house in a different town, or a one night stay at a hotel before you go and spend money for like a 10 day trip somewhere i You want to try camping, maybe camp out in your backyard for a night first. There are different ways to orient the child, you're going to really want to discuss everything with them. First, their social stories, a woman named Carol gray created social stories, which are a way to walk a child through an upcoming experience. And that's something really important to learn about visual schedules where you're outlining everything that might happen in picture form. So first, we're going to do this, then we're going to do this, then we're going to do this. Another thing that I think thankfully, technology has made very easy to do now is to show videos of where you're going to the child from YouTube. So you can show every aspect of a hotel. Most hotels are online with lots of pictures. But also, this one father who said I showed them different videos of rides at theme parks. So we know ahead of time, whether that's going to work or not. So it's a lot of work before you leave home a lot of prep work that's going to make the actual Trip go so much smoother.

DJ Stutz  13:37  
Those are some really good ideas. And again, I kind of reiterating that. These are ideas that it might work for a typical kid or child to maybe not be that neurodiverse but just has maybe some sensory issues, things like the different feel of the sheets from what they're used to. Yeah, you know, a

Dawn Barclay  14:00  
lot of people say, Bring Your Own sheets. Yeah, a lot of people say that. I'll tell you something else. If your child has never been to the beach, go to a local craft store and buy some sand and put it on the floor and have them walk on it. Yeah, because that's something that you want to have them use to before they get there. People don't think about that. And even with neurotypical children, I know myself, I was like, oh, they'll love doing this. Because I grew up in a travel family. My parents owned a big travel agency. I was traveling from age two. So I always assume that every kid is going to be like, This is so exciting to have this adventure, but there are some children who do not think this is exciting at all. Want to go Oh, yes, yes. So they weren't all like me. And that was that was a learning curve.

DJ Stutz  14:45  
Absolutely. And I think for me, anyway, and you can tell me if you think I'm wrong, but I think that earlier, the younger you can introduce a child into the adventure of whether it's traveling or going to a hockey game or whatever that you love to do, the younger they are it normalizes it so much that you, I think you can have fewer problems, that doesn't mean it's going to eliminate any of the problems, but it's something that's more familiar to them. What do you think I,

Dawn Barclay  15:23  
the parents I spoke to, who had the greatest success traveling with their children started very early before the child was diagnosed. Yeah, and they say the kid does great on the plane, they get nervous because they're like, Is the child going to be able to stay in a seatbelt for six hours, what they've learned to do is bring not only the foods, the child lights is assuming that the airline will allow them to bring whatever they need to bring, but to have electronics with them to have the toys that the child really likes. In every chapter, I include a go bag. And the reason I repeated is because I think some people will read one chapter like Oh, I'm going on a train trip. So I'll read this chapter, but they won't read the airline chapter. So there is a little bit of repetition that I apologize for the beginning of the book, but every chapter will tell you to bring noise cancelling headphones, so that the child can just eliminate a lot of that exterior sound that might be upsetting to them. And it will tell you about what to bring in a go bag to help the child who's going to need fidget toys, or sensory toys or different kinds of food. Yeah, that's something you'll find everywhere. And trying to think they also said one great tip for a for amusement park, because I was really surprised that a lot of neuro diverse kids love, let me just read parks, because you would think that would be too chaotic. But some of them absolutely adore it. Always bring sunglasses, because of flashing lights, even at night, bring sunglasses in case you need if you don't need them, keep them in your bag, but you may need them because of flashing lights that might be disturbing to a child.

DJ Stutz  17:07  
But that's a great idea. That really is, I know that there's some kids when they're really young to like on the Fourth of July or whatever, and you want to take your family to the big fireworks display and some kids. And again, they can be neurotypical, they can have sensory concerns, or they can be on the spectrum or whatever. It applies to all of these kids. But I think the idea of maybe some dark sunglasses, and even the noise cancelling because it's the sound, the noise cancelling headphones, even for just it's not a huge trip, it's just going to half an hour or 15 minutes down the road to the park that's hosting it. But the noise,

Dawn Barclay  17:51  
the noise. And it's actually interesting that you bring that up because I have a section on traveling with older children, you know, when they get to be 18 and older and what you're doing. There are camps that cater to the older autistic child and also, you know, mood disorders or attention disorders. And one of them I interview in depth and he was very clear that of all the things they do. They've ruled out Fourth of July fireworks because they're not good for anyone. Some of the kids love amusement parks, some of them don't. But everyone, the Fourth of July fireworks. Yeah. Yeah. So they just don't do it.

DJ Stutz  18:30  
Yeah, that's probably some good ideas. And so I think that brings up another topic in that it doesn't necessarily need to be that traveling to another town, or it might just be some kind of an experience.

Dawn Barclay  18:49  
Yep. And I talked about even restaurants I have a whole chapter I'm whole chapter on how to handle restaurants, a whole chapter on how to handle camping, and how camping can be a tent or a cabinet or an RV. It doesn't have to be I spoke to somebody said I'd love to read your book. But we don't take expensive trips. Well I deal with really, it can be a very inexpensive trip, it can just be going to a festival in your hometown. How are you going to handle it? Right, and Grandma's gonna make it? Yeah, what's going to make it workable and pleasant for the child because the trip should be very child centric. If you have the child happy. Everybody's going to be happy and something. I devote a very large section of the book to I think it's like a 76 page chapter. At least it was when I was writing it. It's about special interest museums. So anybody who knows about autism knows that children with autism might spend up to 16 hours a day obsessing about a very unique topic. So it might be trolley cars, it might be mustard. I spoke to one child who love mustard or trains trains are very popular. I had somebody else that was elevated. There's so I include a chapter that talks about museums and events that cater to various unique interests. Because then, if you happen to be going on a business trip to Wyoming, and your kid is obsessed with dinosaurs, you're going to be able to incorporate a trip to those museums with your trip and make it really fabulous for the child. And the child is always going to remember that, and it's going to strengthen the bond between you and the child. And so I've got all of those, well, it's not totally comprehensive, because that would be impossible. But I do list where to find more information. And I plan to continue the information on my blog, which is going to be traveling different, which will update the book.

DJ Stutz  20:44  
Okay, so we've done all of this pre staff, and we figured out what our child can tolerate. We've done some practice trips, and it's the big day, you know, and you're heading off. Let's talk about and I think it's car and air are the main modes. I personally love the train. We could talk about that at some point. But I think cars and air are the same thing. So we've done all the prep, we've showed them videos, you were mentioning a little earlier. And I know that I've done this with my little hearts Academy, which is my company, a travel map or a scavenger hunt. Talk to me a little bit about those.

Dawn Barclay  21:32  
Well, I will tell you that I do have a car and bus chapter

DJ Stutz  21:37  
Oh, wow. Bus I didn't even think of that

Dawn Barclay  21:39  
yet. Well bus, this kid don't necessarily aren't necessarily just going on a bus trip. They're also involved in transferring from the airport to the hotel, you end up on buses, and some kids are great with them, and some are not. But for cars. Yes, there's some other things to be aware of with cars other than just the map. And the map is an excellent idea. And I will talk about that. But first of all, you should make sure your car is well maintained. So you're not going to have a problem on the way you're going to have your car checked out before the trip is. So you don't want to have that happen or breaks down, you want to make sure that the car seats are fitting properly. And I have an expert who says look, if you rent a car, on Route in a different city, you really can't be sure how that car company is treating the car seats, and she talks about a Consumer Reports study. So bring your own, so you know for sure that it's going to be in good condition. So you wouldn't think about that there's also certain cars that are noisier than others. And I talk about or I think I give a link to Car Talk that talks about that a Car Talk episode. But you're gonna want to schedule the journey to coincide with your child's rhythms. See if they sleep during the day, maybe you want to do a lot of your driving during the day while they're asleep. And maybe you want to avoid peak travel hours when the traffic and crowds could become a problem. And if the if it is a car trip, again, the go bag with some people recommend having a bunch of new toys to hand back to the child if you're not sitting in the back with them, or having different toys in the seat back up right in front of them so that you can reach for them themselves. Watts of their favorite foods know along the journey where you're going to want to stop either for a playground or for their favorite foods map out those rest stops in advance. Some people will bring a stopwatch or o'clock and point out in one hour, we're going to stop. So the child knows and is looking because everything has to be predictable. You know, children like control and they'd like everything to be predictable. So you want to help them along with that. They recommend the same thing for restaurants like say, you know, we're gonna have 10 minutes waiting for our food. And if they don't come, we're gonna go outside and then you go outside, then you come back and wait another 10 minutes. So that little chunks, little predictable chunks. But one of the things you might do for a car trip ahead of time is let the child suggest places of interest along the roots. So they have a hand in it and they have a vested interest in what's going on. And you're gonna want to describe the journey as much as possible and use social stories and visual cues and maybe videos of what you're going to pass also, the typical card games that we all play, like finding certain things along the way starting with certain letters, or I mean this is for a more high functioning child or looking for certain license plates, all those things, anything to fill the time.

DJ Stutz  24:40  
And all of these are great ideas for every parent. Yep, they are awesome, usable ideas that are really going to help. You're not as old as I am.

Dawn Barclay  24:54  
You by surprise, maybe.

DJ Stutz  24:57  
But I remember growing up so Oh, I'm the oldest of seven. But the sevens didn't come until the summer before my senior year in high school. So most of those years, it was just the sixth, just the six of us. But my dad, and I think a lot of dads of that time were like, just barrel through, don't stop. Mom would pack sandwiches and all these things. And sometimes we would stop and eat at a picnic area or restaurant. But it was just barrel through, and you better learn how to hold it. Yeah, I remember driving to work Los Angeles to Portland, Oregon, six kids, plus mom and dad in a Dodge Dart.

Unknown Speaker  25:49  
Because like, gosh, it was the only car we had that had air conditioning, and it was summer.

DJ Stutz  25:58  
I'm glad that we're kind of looking at meeting the needs of the kids a little better. Although I gotta tell you, there are some hysterical memories from that trip. But I really do think that we need to think of our kids just like if we were traveling with our dog, we wouldn't go too long without taking the dog out right to do their business. Why would we do any less for kids? Of course, actually,

Dawn Barclay  26:27  
I have a great quote from Dr. Ellen Lippmann, who is a well known clinical psychologist and she specializes in ADHD don't insist that your children act like they're neurotypical they're not they can't and why would you want them to those with neuro divergent brains can envision novel circumstances with unsurpassed creativity, passion, intuition, humor and kindness. But what she also says is very important, she suggests that the most successful family vacations occur when parents put their children's needs front and center regardless of diagnosis or lack of same, quote, avoid friction by prioritizing their interests, preferences and sensitivities. Get a babysitter when you yearn for a high end restaurant or night at the theater. When parents demonstrate a tuned expectations, children feel more valued, more respected and more invested in creating treasured family memories.

DJ Stutz  27:24  
I agree fully. And now, my oldest daughter also has five kids. And they would go on vacation, but they would take one of my nieces and that were older than her kids, it would be my daughter's cousins. So they might be a little younger than her but they would, they would just take an extra cousin a law. That cousin got to go on this really cool, fun trip. But then when Candice and her husband wanted to go and do something, they were able to do that because they had this built in babysitter, or they had an extra set of hands with the younger ones that just getting them ready in the morning to go out and stuff can be an ordeal.

Dawn Barclay  28:14  
Yeah, that's absolutely true. I talk about babysitters that you can hire either from home to travel with you or at a destination, I have a good profile of a couple of them. And also say you rent a houseboat of this lots of extra space. Why not bring another set of hands to share in the taking kid they're getting a free trip, but they're also there to help.

DJ Stutz  28:38  
Right. And that just I think was ingenious. I would have never thought of that when I was doing my kids. Yeah, but I thought it was just an ingenious idea. And of course that made her very popular with her cousins and

Unknown Speaker  28:53  
we get to go to Mexico. Sounds great.

DJ Stutz  28:57  
Yeah, it's a good idea. And I think not only is a great with again, it's good for all kids. Yes. All families, especially if you've got several kids, I think that's a great idea. I also think if you have family close by? Well, it depends on your family, I guess. But for most of them you could have grandma and grandpa or your sister might you can trade going out nights or

Dawn Barclay  29:26  
multigenerational travel is a trend anyway. Especially post COVID When people have been kept apart for so long and they want to be as a family. So you're seeing more and more tour companies that are catering to multi generational travel. Even just the grandparents traveling with the children. And you're also seeing this is responsible for why the popularity of vacation rentals has shot up.

DJ Stutz  29:54  
Yeah, I think that's exactly right. As we gather more tech The other end, what a blessing to build those bonds of family. On a trip, I remember growing up, my mom, she's the third of four. And we go God together at least every other year. And we'd go to Yosemite or we'd go to the beach, or we always had something going on. And they were. And I have very close relationships with my extended family. And my kids know, they're second cousins. Because of that, and to build that bond of family, and who else is gonna love if you have a diverse child? Lots is gonna love that child more than family, aunts and uncles, grandmas and grandpas. And so you've got that extra help with someone who understands and truly loves your child.

Dawn Barclay  30:57  
Yes. So true. Yeah.

DJ Stutz  31:01  
So okay, we're on our trip. And we notice that whatever it is that we're doing, our child is hitting a wall. So what are some strategies? Do you think we could look out for there?

Dawn Barclay  31:16  
Well, if you know your child, well, you're going to know what's causing that. And it's probably taking the child to a more quiet area. And so they can just level off and calm down and getting food that will help I mean, every family sort of has their own method to calm a child down, I do talk about sail, pretty large chapter about how to handle onlookers, because a lot of what the most the parents are like, Oh, what are the other people going to think in fact, that's why a lot of people with children on the spectrum don't travel 93% of those surveyed would have traveled if they knew where to go. But I think a lot of a lot of them are nervous about what other people are going to think are they going to think I don't know how to take care of my child, are they going to think the child has tantruming, when they have just had a sensory overload, and they can't deal with it? Right. So first and foremost, pay your attention to the child and not to the people looking on your duty as to your child and to remove them from the situation to a quieter place. And maybe one of the ways to avoid getting to that point is to constantly check in with them, and ask how they're doing and how their variance thing, the sensory input around them and chalk it up to a learning experience for next time. Because now you'll know what to avoid. I'm not saying you're going to read this book, and everybody is going to travel and it's going to be perfect. I mean, I think a lot of it is experimentation.

DJ Stutz  32:44  
I would agree. It's funny, if I'm on an airplane, I'm the best person for you to sit next to if you've got a kid, I don't care. I'm used to noise. It's kind of hard. At the beginning, you don't get to often choose who you're sitting next to, unless you've got the whole row. But then you've got people in front of you and behind you. And I was listening to another podcast and I heard this great idea. But they came. And they had a neurodiverse child that was young. And they came with gift for everyone who was sitting in front of them, everyone was sitting behind them. And I look, you know, across the aisle from them. And they were earplugs and gum and I think there's like a $5 gift card to Starbucks and

Dawn Barclay  33:38  
brilliant and brilliant. I'd like to put that in the blog and backup the book because they're brilliant. I do have somebody who has. I don't know if it made it into the book or not. But he had Tourette's. And he made a point of making sure that everybody around him understood what that meant. In case he had a verbal outbursts later. But I hadn't heard of anybody who is giving gift bags in advance. There are people who say advise people near you, even if your child is acting perfect. Say my child has some invisible disabilities. This is what could happen and preview it for them. So they are aware and they it doesn't take them by surprise. And be sure to tell the flight attendant ahead of time about your child's issues. So they are not surprised and they can keep an eye out. Also there's talk about where to sit on the plane when to get on the plane. Is your child going to be better waiting to the last minute or is your child going to want to get up first. If the child sits up front, they don't see the people behind them, but some children and actually a lot of people said Yeah, you don't want the child to see all the people in front of them. So sit up front. But again, it's knowing your child but I do put this information in and I have quite a long chapter about dealing with airplanes and how to preview going to the airport through a company called wings for odd His own, which lets you tour the airport and experience the whole thing beforehand, they sort of stopped during COVID. I don't know if they've started again, this was written a lot during lockdown. So it was anticipating that everything would want to go back to normal. But I do give the caveat throughout the book that you should do your due diligence and check before you go anywhere, call everyone. And make sure of hours, make sure they're still open. You know, that's important, no matter when you're traveling.

DJ Stutz  35:33  
One of the things that I've heard people talk about, and they might worry a little bit about sharing with their flight attendants is that some flight attendants get more upset that you've got this child. And, you know, during the COVID, craziness, we've heard about families being kicked off, just because they had a child with disabilities, and they were afraid he will keep his mask on or he will be too disruptive. Have you heard anything about that?

Dawn Barclay  36:08  
I know that there are some certified autism travel professionals who said, yeah, they hear about the people being kicked off the planes. And that's why they don't want to travel. The flight attendants are more nervous about an adult who just refuses to wear their mask, I haven't really heard a lot about the child being an issue, because I think the parents of children who won't wear a mask are not flying. Or they are, I spoke to one Travel Advisor who traveled with her grandchild. And what they had done was ease the child into the mask wearing like five minutes more every day, five minutes more every day with like, with a prize after each extension, so that the by the time the flight, it was time for the flight, the child was ready to be okay. Yeah, little by little. And that's again, it's very hard with a child on the spectrum to spring a trip on them. It's something you really have to think about for a while and prepare them for a while.

DJ Stutz  37:10  
Well, and again, that's a great idea for any child. Yeah. Right. And I know that some of the European countries are dropping their mass mandates on airplanes, I can only pray and hope they do that here. But we'll see what happens. But I think getting your child used to it. That's such a great idea. I'm so glad we're talking to you with all of these amazing thoughts and ideas, you're just got some great ones that parents can take and use right away. So if parents wanted to learn more about how to find your book, or more about you, where can they go?

Dawn Barclay  37:53  
Well, the book is, it's actually available on preorder. Now it's being released August 15. But you can pre order either the hardcover or the audio book, the digital is not going to be available to be pre ordered, I don't believe until August, and then you can get it but there's not really a big price differential between digital and the hardcover. So you might as well get the hardcover. You can read more on traveling, which is a section of my website, and they can read about me at Don Barkley That's i n k. Hahaha. And I have a different website. I write fiction. So I have a different website for that. Yeah, the book is called traveling different vacation strategies for parents of the anxious, the inflexible and the neurodiverse. And you can find it on all of the online realtor's retailers. Sorry, edit that out. I will buy online retailers, Amazon, Barnes and Noble. It's available all over the world, which is sort of exciting to see,

DJ Stutz  39:02  
oh, that's gotta be. Alright. We'll have all of that information in our show notes. And so if you didn't happen to have a pen and paper at the ready, we'll just have that in the show notes you can shoot on down and you'll be able to see everything that Don was talking about. So before we go, though, I have a question I asked every guest at the end of our show, and I kind of spring it on them. But how would you define a successful parent,

Dawn Barclay  39:32  
somebody with a lot of patience and a great sense of humor. When I gave birth to my first child, I first of all said this is new to me. This is new to you. Let's forgive each other. I had read before I gave birth that every mother is entitled to 2000 mistakes and I cling to that. Yeah. So I think it is successful parent is one One who gives themselves a break to and knows that they're always trying to do their best. No matter how it turns out, they always tried their

DJ Stutz  40:07  
best. I agree. I know some adults who came from amazing families that are making just wackadoodle decisions. And it's, I know parents take that, personally. But it really isn't. They're on their own path. You give them that foundation. You love them. You find your sense of humor, you'd go and build memories, but it's their life to do what they're gonna wind up doing. So, yeah, yeah, I really agree with you. Thank you so much, Dawn Barclay, I really appreciate you taking the time to come and be a part of our podcast.

Unknown Speaker  40:49  
I had a great time. Thank you. And happy to come back anytime you want. Yeah,

DJ Stutz  40:53  
We'll have to have some more discussions. I love it! Thank you. I thought Dawn had some great insights and ideas. Have you tried any of her ideas? Are you planning to leave a comment in a review, I'd love to hear. And while you're leaving that comment, pop in that five star rating that really helps us out a lot. All of Dawnn's information is in our show notes. Easy to find, I hope you'll go down and check it out. Are you following us, make sure you're following the podcast so you don't miss anything. And be sure to register for our free newsletter at And never miss a beat. 

So Little Hearts Academy USA is actually my coaching company. But also on the website, we have a ton of resources. And most of them honestly are free. We've got some stories there that you that you can watch with your children of readings of books, we've got some activities, we've got a few songs, there's just a lot to look at. And so I hope you'll go there and investigate. That's also where you can go and register to be part of either a one on one coaching setup, or you can be part of our group coaching program as well. So check that out. And then be part of my Instagram family and follow me at Imperfect Heroes podcast. And you'll get a lot of helpful hints and tips and information on upcoming episodes. And I even pop in once in a while and do a live. I'll be looking for you. So next week, I'm talking with New Zealander Laurel Mechoulam, who is a certified financial education instructor and founder of Mother's Teaching Money, which is a business and a movement that helps mothers raise financially confident and responsible and independent adults. So listen in next week and see what I mean. And until next time, let's find joy in parenting.

Transcribed by

Dawn Madelon BarclayProfile Photo

Dawn Madelon Barclay


Dawn M. Barclay is an award-winning author who has spent a career working in different aspects of the travel industry. Starting as an agent with her parents’ firms, Barclay Travel Ltd and Barclay International Group Short-Term Apartment Rentals, she then branched out into travel trade reporting with senior or contributing editor positions at Travel Agent Magazine, Travel Life,Travel Market Report, and most recently, Insider Travel Report. She is a mother of two and resides in New York’s scenic Hudson Valley. She also writes fiction as D.M. Barr and holds leadership roles in several writer organizations.