Autism Spectrum Stories Thibault

The Thibault family on vacation.

Travel with Autism | The Back story

I met Nicole Thibault at a family travel conference about a year ago. She told me,about the work she is doing to empower families with special needs, including Autism,  to travel. I knew immediately that I wanted the world to hear from her.

We share a passion for making sure that all families feel like they have a shot at seeing this planet and I was immediately taken by how, despite the many calls on her time and attention at home, she was making an impact for so many kids.

Recently I had the chance to share her story with readers of the Globe and Mail through my family travel column. I’m sharing a bit of it below.

I hope it inspires families of all kinds to go further than they previously thought possible.

Travel with Autism |How to See the World

When I ask Nicole Thibault to tell me about her earliest travel experiences with her 13-year-old son, Tristan, she laughs.

It’s the kind of nervous laughter that parents of young children will immediately recognize: A fatigued chuckle laced with an “I’m glad that’s over” sigh.

There was a time when Thibault and her husband, Chris, would’ve described themselves as travellers; it ended when Tristan was 2.

“Everything was horrible for him,” she recalls. “The lines to go through security, the airplane ride, the bus to the resort. … Everything we did made him scream.”

It turned out to be more than the terrible twos. A diagnosis of autism followed shortly after their return and Thibault’s travelling family dreams seemed in jeopardy.

Thirteen years later, Thibault is happily showing me photos from two of her favourite family adventures. In them, Tristan is beaming alongside parents and his younger brothers, Sebastian, 11, and Emerson, 10, during family trips to Walt Disney World and Mexico.

It’s a photo Thibault was determined to make happen, but it took some time. The knowledge she gleaned along the way is helping other families with special-needs children travel, too.

First there was Magical Storybook Travels – the agency she launched after conversations with other special-needs parents made it clear that many had given up family travel entirely. Clients have ranged from an aunt with deaf nieces to a child with anorexia.

Her first-hand knowledge of what it’s like to travel with a special-needs child and her belief in Temple Grandin’s “loving push” theory – which suggests kids with autism need to be gently pushed from their comfort zones – made travel seem possible for her clients.

“Every time we went [on a trip], we’d try something new so that we could expand his safety bubble,” Thibault explains. “That’s my whole mission.”

The Mission grew last year when she created a new initiative: Spectrum Travel Social Story Videos.

[Read more at The Globe and Mail...]

Autism Spectrum Disorder Thibault

The Thibault boys


Do you travel with kids who have special needs? Please share your tips, travel finds below.

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