Our family travels quite often, it is just something that I grew up doing, and now my children had grown up doing well before a diagnosis identified the things we struggle with. Most of you probably know the drill; you make the reservations well in advance, prep your child(ren) with videos, pictures, scrapbooks, and maps. You even contact the people at every accommodation point or restaurant stop and tell the usual details about your child. It's a bit of an ordeal, but it gets the job done.
So recently we took a short road trip to Berry in NSW, I ran through my process, contacted the farm stay and every restaurant asking for a quiet table and hoped for air conditioning to help my kids process the unseasonably hot weather. Now, most times, when doing this, people will read the notes but not necessarily understand the need. The request of a quiet table might seem insignificant to some, but to a family with ASD children, it can make or break your evening at the risk of sensory overload.
Our first stop was our accommodation; a lovely Airbnb Farm Stay we found where the host had gone to the trouble of sending us photos from every angle to help my children feel comfortable on arrival. Their hospitality made for such a warm welcome, one that over the next few days, became the beginning of an unexpected friendship that I will always be grateful for.
While in town, we had two dinners, the first a french bistro-inspired place called Queen Street Eatery and Wine Bar. The lovely hostess contacted me earlier in the day about our seating placement being inside away from the heat outdoors but also into the corner near the windows to give my son the best separation from the noise that she could offer. On arrival, it was clear that the music had been turned down for us, the staff were attentive and so thoughtful as they took care of us that evening. The food was outstanding, and the overall experience much more successful than some of our usual, more familiar attempts at going out for dinner at home.
The second night we went to The Garden where the staff had cleared an entire back room facing the courtyard for us to dine in. They asked about the music, and if we wanted it off, announced themselves as they came in or out and clearly made every effort to accommodate our needs. Now granted, the place wasn't full. In fact, they only had a few tables to service at the time; however, the effort that is required to take one of those tables and put it at the other end of your premises is understandably massive and was incredibly appreciated. In an odd turn of events, our little table of four ended up laughing and making more noise than we could have ever handled ourselves, leaving us with a beautiful meal and memories that will never be forgotten.
So why am I sharing this with you? Well, two reasons. The first is that when you feel the monotony of always having to preempt your situation with a special needs schpeal before you walk out the door, I am here to reassure you that sometimes people can surprise you with the most wonderful of gestures. The second is to let you know that if you are ever looking for a short-stay from the Illawarra, Berry is a beautiful little town with amazing people that seem to understand the needs of families with ASD.
In all my travels all over the world, I have never had an experience that was as all-encompassingly positive and understanding, like this one. We found more recognition for the additional struggles of ASD and thoughtfulness from strangers in this one little town that I have in most places.
If you are looking for a weekend getaway that might work for your family travelling with additional needs, check out this little town on the south coast and don't forget to stop in at one of those two places for dinner!