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Road Trip to Los Angeles ***** (5 Stars)

Marianne Sullivan's 20 year old son, Hunter, has severe autism. Marianne works on the Autism Speaks Family Services Team.

What to give to a young adult with autism as a holiday gift? Clothes don't quite do it. Computer games can become a bit boring. Money delights but is not much of a creative task for the person giving. After a lot of thought, let me describe what I decided to do this year, and perhaps it may offer you some ideas when it comes to a special gift option for a young adult with autism.

For the past year, my son Hunter has worked hard, at his job at the Santa Cruz Brewery. He also has been working hard in his last year of his transition program at the Coryell Autism Program that will help prepare him for independent living in the community. Like most of us, he was looking forward to the holiday break. So, we had time on our hands and we needed a plan.

Hunter is always asking to visit Kim, a favorite staff person and special friend who now lives in Los Angeles where she is completing her graduate education. So, the idea came to plan a road trip as his special holiday gift. Coincidently, just as I was starting to think about details, I received an email from an LA hotel, The Farmers Daughter, announcing a special promotion. Within minutes, the trip began to take shape.

Friday was one of those lovely, clear Northern California winter days that makes 

you want to be outside. It was a perfect start for our road trip. Driving down the highway 101 is a comfortable and nicely scenic route for the 6 hour trip from Santa Cruz to Los Angeles. Hunter announced our route as the “one-hundred and one highway", (the Dalmatian movie theme is never far from his thoughts).  Hunter stayed quite happy and we only stopped once to get gas and refreshments. He managed admirably, as he negotiating with girl behind counter, carefully counting his money.

The hotel is conveniently located on S. Fairfax Avenue, near heart of LA. It is within easy walking distance to the Grove, the Farmers Market, local movie theaters, and Whole Foods. It also offers a very relaxed atmosphere even though it is surrounded by busy urban life. Their pool and outdoor restaurant were real bonuses. Staff was super helpful. There was a nice mix of friendly people, so that a 6”6 adult with autism, lots of vocalizations, just seemed to fit into the mix.

Friday night, we enjoyed seeing Monsters, INC. 3D at the El Capitan Theater. A good night's sleep and Saturday morning we met Kim at 9 AM and we were off to Universal Studios, where we used Hunter's collection of Arrowhead bottle caps to get discount tickets. Universal Studios offers disability assistance services so that once you check in with guest relations , they do all they can to make your visit a pleasant one.

The road trip couldn't have gone better. Hunter enjoyed seeing his friend and took special delight in all the amusements offered by the city of Los Angeles. We headed home on Sunday, and I felt his appreciation for this special gift. I also was so appreciative of everyone along the way who helped make this the perfect road trip!

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.