Dad spent 12 months planning autistic son's first holiday: 'It was worth it'

A dedicated father who needed to spend 12 months planning his 26-year-oldautistic son’s first trip abroad says he’s ‘a very proud dad’ now he’s seen how much his boy enjoyed himself.

Adam Murphy, 50, thought his son Ryan, 26, was ‘ready’ for the experience last summer, so he started planning a trip to Torremolinos, Spain for this year.

Adam, who has recently been diagnosed with autism himself, said doing all this prep was ‘lengthy but necessary’ because Ryan is autistic and has additional learning disabilities.

This means taking him to unfamiliar places can be a challenge.

Adam, who’s a full-time carer for Ryan, said: ‘There was an awful lot of planning that went into the holiday, but there is an awful lot of planning that goes into everything we do.

‘I didn’t know if Ryan was going to get onto the plane or if he was going to have a meltdown whilst we were onboard, so I knew I had to plan the journey to a point where we both knew this trip would happen.’

But thanks to all the work the pair put into preparing for the journey, by doing things like listening to plane sounds online and doing a pretend airport check-in at home, Ryan had a brilliant time.

He was able to go swimming and shopping, as well as relax at the bar and dance at the mini disco.

The dad-of-three from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, said: ‘I’ve never seen him dance that way, and for as long as he did at the disco, it was amazing to see.

‘He was happy, laughing, smiling, dancing – seeing him like this made me feel like I’d made the right decision to take him on holiday in the first place.

‘Going on holiday may not be a big deal for most people, but for Ryan, this was a huge achievement – I’m a very proud father.’

Part of Adam’s prep for Ryan included reaching out to charity Fly2Help, who helped them arrange a visit to Gloucestershire Airport where they could get on an aeroplane ahead of their trip.

Adam said: ‘They made our holiday a reality.

‘They enabled Ryan to experience check-in and security.

‘We sat on the aeroplane which they then started, so he could experience those feelings.

‘I then went onto YouTube and played Ryan noises of the aeroplane and of its toilet, so he knew how they sounded.’

They even made up their own slogan for the trip too.

‘It was very simple – I would say “Spain Spain”, he would reply “on an aeroplane”,’ Adam said.

‘Just by saying the phrase, it opened up for if he wanted to talk about the trip further, and it did it in a way where there was no pressure which is such a big thing.

‘I made sure not to plan this trip in a way where Ryan thought he was pressured into doing anything he didn’t want to do. He has to do it at his own pace.’

Adam left Ryan to do some of his own research and explore their holiday destination by himself too, with the help of Google Maps.

He said: ‘Ryan researched Torremolinos to the extent where he could direct me around the area without even having been there before, which is what he then did when we were there – he is just amazing.’

Special attention also had to be paid when picking a hotel.

Adam needed somewhere Ryan could feel at home, so they chose a family-friendly hotel packed with activities he knew his son would like.

The dad contacted the hotel and asked them to send him a menu too, so Ryan could take a look at what he was going to eat that week.

Adam added: ‘I want to share Ryan having a glass of Prosecco with his bacon and eggs.

‘I want people to see him go through check-in or standing by the swimming pool on holiday.

‘There are so many families being told that their child may never experience all these fantastic things life has to offer.

‘They are so worried and so scared. I know because I’ve been there, so it is extremely important that we talk about the positive side of autism too.

‘I’m immensely proud. He is just an amazing young man.

‘I still can’t believe I took him on a plane.

‘All the steps I have been able to put into place, and this was possible, because of the way Ryan teaches me – I listen, and I learn from him.’

Adam’s top three tips when travelling abroad with a person with disabilities:

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