How NOT to prepare for the autistic child’s camping trip

Youngest is off, after school, on a camping trip with his Year 8 cohort. They will set off to walk to a nearby campsite, pitch tents, eat BBQ, camp overnight and return to school sometime the next day. Sounds fun, you might think, and I do hope it is, because this morning has been a faffing nightmare getting him ready.

The TentYoungest has just started some medication that is already making him feel much less anxious so when he wanted to go to the cinema last night with his brother and cousins who are visiting from New Zealand, it would have been unfair to make him stay and pack his bag. So off he went and we did it for him.

Tent, check, sleeping bag, check, bed roll, check. Two spare sets of clothing, cleverly grouped into outfits and packed in separate plastic bags so he doesn't have to root around in his rucksack, check. Everything on the kit list was ticked off and my husband and I thought we'd done a pretty marvellous job.

Youngest arrives home late, heads for the shower and tumbles into bed.

This morning, he says, "Did you pack my rucksack? I wanted to do it. What have you put in?" Youngest is notoriously fussy about his clothes and shoes. Husband and I exchange uneasy glances.

Out comes everything from the rucksack and Youngest is, of course, unhappy with our choices. Then he decides his shoes are too small and he most definitely does not want the trainers we have packed for him. I grab Son1's walking boots, which are most probably too large but Youngest tries them on and decides they'll be fine to take. So we pack them in a plastic bag and I leave husband to repack the rucksack that now contains completely different sets of colour-coordinated clothing.

Into the car goes his wheeled schoolbag for today, rucksack and daypack. He had already sorted out the daypack before he went to the cinema, containing the important stuff - Haribos, guava juice and a self-heating can of rocket coffee. Then I remember - he needs to pack his medication and I should have given it to the nurse days ago. Bugger! She's not going to be happy.

It is now 0820 and we live five miles from school, which starts at 0830.

Off we set, only for the hands-free phone to ring minutes later. It's husband. "Doesn't he need these walking boots?" he asks. Double bugger! We pull into the Tesco Express car park to await husband with the missing boots. My teeth are grinding and I'm feeling uncomfortably clammy. The boys are sitting with their headphones on in their own worlds.

Husband arrives and, boots onboard, we screech out of the car park and head for school, now unavoidably late as we fight through the Farnham town centre traffic. "Are you sure you can't stay for a club or prep so I can have more time to work?" I ask Son1, hopefully. "No," is his uncompromising reply. I sigh and turn up Norah Jones singing about how her heart is drenched in wine. I wish mine was too.

Eventually arriving, I drive across the  campus to the sports hall to deliver the bags and tent, only to come face-to-face with the off-duty nurse who also has a son in Year 8. I mention the missing medication and wince as she tell me how they were at school until seven last night, securely packaging everyone else's who'd got it there at the allotted time. But, as she is a nice person, she graciously tells me it won't be a problem, but I still feel like the most disorganised mother on the planet.

Youngest trundles happily, through the drizzle, off to form, because of course, no camping trip is complete without rain. I fight back through the traffic to my home office to bring you this sorry tale of woe. Still, the sons are happy, and that's the main thing. Isn't it?

I'm having a spot of surgery in a week's time. I am strangely looking forward to the general anaesthetic.

Tania Tirraoro


  1. Jenny Young

    So familiar!!
    My 9 year old’s ear defenders arrived yesterday. I was planning a “social story” to encourage him to put them on when there are noises he doesn’t like.

    Wrong!!! Need to work on a social story about ONLY putting them on when there are scary noises. Not when you want Mum to read to you!

    Also……milk the recovery period from surgery for all it’s worth. (Oh and don’t expect any back up from social services)

  2. Julie Faux

    Your comment made me laugh! My son is also on the said camping trip and I had to leave all the packing to my husband as I was in hospital for surgery yesterday. My hubby is notorious for not getting things right and my son l eats a very restricted diet because of his ASD. Son has not taken his phone and all had to be packed into the taxi this morning so we await tomorrow to see what disasters have happened!
    Take care after your surgery at least the boys will be on holiday!

  3. rachel

    very funny but true story I like the bit at the end of having to have an operation I fully understand and wrongly look forward to the injection for the deepest uninterrupted sleep all to myself. !!! Good luck.

  4. My autism and husband went on a week long camping trip with the Boy Scouts last month. My son was ready the night before. Literally, he was ready. He put on his uniform, and was ready to go out the door.

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