Monika and Scott Knight live in Berlin, Germany and are raising their son John who has autism.They are currently in the process of launching a blog titled ‘Tomorrow can wait’ and writing a book about their travels with John throughout Europe.
How old is your son John and what is his current diagnosis?
We’re Scott and Monika Knight. Our son John is eleven years old and severely autistic, mostly non-verbal. He attends a school specialized in autism, which works with TEACCH, PECS, a talker and some sign language to help communication.
How did you start traveling with your son and when did it become ‘a way of life’ for you?
We’ve always traveled, because of to our transatlantic relationship (Scott is originally from the States.) John flew for the first time from Chicago to Germany when he was three months old.
Traveling as a broader concept entered our minds as a way for John to open up his routines after we talked to a woman with an autistic adult son who didn’t want to leave the house.Both my husband and I felt we wanted to expose John to the world, not condemn him to a lifetime of staying home.
How do you choose your destinations and how do you prepare John for his next adventure?
We always talk about places we’d like to see, and we haven’t been to yet. Then we look on the internet. Once we know where we’ll go, we watch videos of our destination with John and tell him that it’s our next vacation.
What items do you always bring along?
Since John is not entirely toilet-trained yet, we mostly pack diapers, lots of diapers. We usually first pack the car with all the diapers and then we see what else we can still squeeze in.
How does John cope with unexpected changes in travel plans and what do you bring along to occupy him on long trips?
John loves water, so he likes traveling by boats and ferries, which is perfect for us in Europe. On long car drives, we take music, sugarless gum, and picture books to keep him entertained. In the past, we used to fly a lot; but we’ve found air travel increasingly difficult as John got older. Now we mostly travel by car, which has somewhat limited our reach, but that’s okay.
What type of lodging do you prefer and why?
We always try to rent houses. In Europe, it’s even cheaper than staying in hotels in many cases. They can be modest homes; it’s just nice to have more space and a kitchen to cook in, so we don’t have to experience the stress of eating in a restaurant.
But more importantly, with a house, John has more freedom to be as loud as he wants. He becomes more relaxed and then so do we.
What are your son’s favorite things to do at a new destination?
Since John loves to ride in the car, we first take scenic drives to get to know a new area and John scopes out stores that sell ice cream.
We don’t normally have a set schedule when we travel; we mostly play it by ear and see how John is managing, and if he seems up to it, we walk around. If he wants to relax, we do just that. One of the key managing his behavior is for us to be flexible and stress him out.
What has been his favorite place so far and why?
It’s difficult to name a favorite place because there are so many we’ve enjoyed. Ireland, France, and Sweden are all up there.
Since John doesn’t like heat, we wouldn’t travel to Southern Spain in the summer again. We had a hard time there, on your last visit so next time we would l go in the spring or fall.
After a trip, we print out photos, laminate them and make a photo book for John. He likes to look at them quite often, and with the lamination, they don’t ruin as quickly.
Where will your travels take you next?
We’re hoping to go to Scotland, Southern England, and Tuscany.