Traveling with your Child with Special Needs
The thought of travelling with your child who has special needs can be overwhelming for some parents. You may be wondering how you will handle your child’s challenges outside of the comfort of their home and routine. However, with proper planning, a happy and enjoyable vacation for the entire family is more than possible. Here are a few tips that can help make your adventure a true success:
- Take the plunge
Don’t let your fears take over. Everyone needs to escape every once in a while. With proper research, planning, and dividing up responsibilities between family members you are sure to have a memorable vacation.
- Plan, plan and plan some more
Choose your destination. Make sure you choose a place that meets the needs of your child with special needs and the needs of the entire family. Decide if you are flying or travelling by car. Check accessibility at your final destination as well as any places you'll be stopping or staying en route. Consider what items you'll need for bedtime, bath time and mealtimes. Bring along anything that your destinations don't have.
- Call the physician
Ask for recommendations, tips, and any items you may need in case of an emergency. Your travel pack might include:
- A list of any prescription drugs your child is taking.
- A physician's description letter of your child's condition and needs in case of an emergency.
- Phone numbers and e-mail addresses of your home physicians/specialists.
- Recommendations for physicians and specialists in the area you're visiting.
- Health insurance cards and phone numbers
- Phone numbers of any necessary medical supply companies.
- Make a list
As you go through your day, write down all the things that your child will need and want in order to have an enjoyable vacation. For example; bringing a familiar blanket or toy can helpbring comfort and keep regularroutines intact.
- Prepare a “goody bag”
Pack extras of their very favorite items. Pack them a brand-new toy, load a new movie on your iPad or load a new video game for them and don’t show it to them until absolutely necessary. This provides a fantastic distraction and they are also so excited for something new! Maybe think about two new things, so they also have something for the return flight home.
6. Plan for delays
Managing a one-hour delay can be different from a multiple-hour delay or a complete cancellation. Pack a change of clothes in case of spills, essential medical items, electronic chargers, and a favorite item that is given only in case of an emergency.
7. Create a storyboard
Create a storyboard for your child prior to the trip. Make it fun with lots of visuals. While looking at the pictures, talk about the places they will be visiting and all the fun activities they will be doing. This will prepare them for the new experiences they will have and ease their anxiety.
8. Family time
It is natural to be concerned about how your special needs child is getting along, but don’t forget about your other family members. While your special needs child is napping or occupied with a favorite toy, be sure you offer some quality time and attention to your other kids as well. Chat with your other kids and reconnect. They will thank you later by having a much more cooperative and supportive attitude when your attention has to be focused on your special needs child.
9. Don’t be shy
Many people don't know what to do or how to react to an individual with special needs. However, they would be more than happy to help if you asked for their assistance. Let people know exactly what you need and expect them to make accommodations for your child's special needs.
- Relax and enjoy the ride
Preparing and planning for a trip can be stressful, and a perfect vacation is impossible. What worked—and what didn’t—can be logged in your inventory of subsequent to-dos and not-to-dos. So, remember, you’re on holiday with your family and to relax and have fun. It’s not about perfection. It’s about living in the moment and enjoying your time. Bon voyage and safe travels!