A few months ago our family was introduced to AngelSense the unique GPS system that can help families with autism. As we tested out the product, we also had the pleasure of communicating with one of its founders, Doron Somer. So we were thrilled when Doron agreed to partake in a short interview and share how he and his family travel.
AG: what is your connection to Autism?
D:I am married to Nira, and we have two children, Jonathan, 24-year-old who is studying computer science, and Itamar, 20-year-old who has autism and is naive and vulnerable like a 3-year-old.
AG: Does your family have a favorite travel style and if so, what is it?
D:Traveling with Itamar is not easy, and thus we don’t go places much. Itamar is great in the car and loves walking as well. So our travel is based on driving and stopping at different places for a walk. We don’t go to shopping centers and crowded cities.
AG: What electronic devices do you travel with?
D:We always take AngelSense with us, so we can keep Itamar safe, always know where he is and call him to stay connected. We also carry a tablet for him. We used to buy iPads, but since they don’t last long, we moved to low-cost ones that we buy once a month 🙂
AG: Is there any method of transportation you avoid during travel?
D:Yes, we don’t use public transportation. We stick to a private car.
AG: What has been your biggest travel challenge so far?
D:Our biggest problem is that Itamar is easily distracted and we lose sight of him. This is where AngelSense is helpful for us. We always know where he is and now I can also call him using AngelCall (a new feature recently added to AngelSense) where you can call and speak with the child without them needing to “pick up” or click anything.
It’s great because I can ask him to stay where he is and I can also speak with the people around him to explain the situation.
AG: How do you prepare your son for travel?
D:Typically he overhears (too early…) that we are traveling, and then every day (20 times a day) ) he will ask about the trip. It is tough to prepare him, but we do try to show him pictures and explain things to him.Anxiety about change in his routine is our main challenge.
AG: What’s the best outdoor activity you’ve shared so far with your son?
D:We love walking together and then stopping for an espresso and hot chocolate. We do that every weekend, and it is simply incredible.
AG: What has been your worst travel experience to date?
D:When he was really young, three years old, we lived in California and decided to fly to the east coast to meet a famous expert to diagnose him. This was the worst flight ever! Sitting for six hours in an airplane with Itamar at that period was tough.
AG: What was your best family travel experience?
D:After many years that we didn’t go on vacation, we traveled to Crete, Greece, a couple of years ago. It was an amazing experience. What made it memorable was the fact that we got to experience the trip through his eyes.
One funny example was when we flew back. It was one AM; everything seemed very surreal, the airplanes, the strange language people were speaking, etc. But the highlight was when the flight attendant put the life vest on and started giving the demonstration. At that point, Itamar said “that’s it, I’m leaving!”, he was sure we were going for a night swim!
AG: What’s on your bucket list to visit with your son?
D:I have a dream to go with both my boys for a jungle trek in South America. I have personally wanted to do that for a long time and never had the chance. Itamar is an active and athletic guy (both boys are), so I think he would enjoy that. This could be an amazing experience (at least how I imagine it in my head).
AG: In your opinion- what is the biggest misconception families have when it comes to traveling with autism?
D:Wow, not sure. I think it’s tough… not sure it is a misconception. We are lucky that Itamar has become more flexible in recent years, so perhaps what I can say here, is don’t give up trying. We did give up for a while, and when we tried again we found out, surprisingly, that it’s great!
AG: How has traveling with Itamar changed your life?
D: We traveled a lot before Itamar was born and they were magical moments. Travel helps me disconnect from the day to day worries; I guess it is so for most of us.
Itamar is typically quite stressed out when we are planning a trip; he worries about it as it is hard for him to envision the details. Still, when we do get to travel it is an amazing experience!