Taking a family trip with a special needs child in tow can be difficult but, with proper planning, it can be done. Kutest Kids Early Intervention, is well aware of the potential issues and would like to offer some practical advice for making the trip memorable and exciting for the whole family.
Scope out your vacation. Any family with a special needs child will tell you that planning well in advance of the family trip is crucial for a fun trip for everyone. This is true for all family trips and even more so when a special needs child is involved.
Accessibility should be a top priority when considering a location. Having access to restroom facilities along the way and once you arrive at your destination needs to be thoroughly investigated beforehand. Any other specifications, like wheelchair accessibility should be discussed with the motel customer service rep or the person in charge of whatever other accomodation you may have booked.
If they do not offer the amenities that your family requires, do not hesitate to ask them to refer another location that does. You never know; they may be motivated to incorporate these features into their own facility in the future because of your request and a lost customer.
Pack lightly (if possible). Over packing can contribute to unnecessary stress when you are trying to help your child feel safe and entertained while at the same time being weighed down with loads of carry-on bags, garment bags and shopping bags. It is important to plan out your list of necessities and stick to it. This should include; clothing, diapers, electronic devices (and don’t forget the chargers!), snack, your child's favorite toys and, last but not least, any and all medications.
You don’t want to be stuck without the basics either, so don’t leave anything out. Alternatively, you can make sure that your vacation area has all the products you may need to buy in case you run out of anything.
Consult with your child's doctor. A large part of the stress associated with traveling with a special needs child is the medical considerations that must be taken into account. Consult with your child's physician to help you put together a list of necessities for your child.
This will probably include necessary medical documentation, medicine refills, a detailed list of prescriptions that your child is taking, medical referrals to a physician in the area and numbers of medical supply stores, etc. Your travel will be that much calmer once you have all of that out of the way.
Be ready for a meltdown. Understandably, parents of a special needs child are anxious about their child's behavior and fear a potential outburst in a public area. Don’t let this troubling thought stop you from making this family trip and creating memories for the family.
The first step is to try and avoid all situations that may be stressful for your child. Special needs children tend to fall into a routine and anything outside of that routine will overwhelm them, which is a meltdown waiting to happen. If your child is used to having a snack at a given time, try to stick with it. Try to avoid unpredictability.
The same goes to avoiding situations that will be stressful for YOU as a parent. Know your limits and work around them. Make sure that you pack lunch or a snack for yourself while taking care of everyone else. This will help you keep your sanity and make the trip more enjoyable for everyone else.
Here’s a quick packing checklist before you hit the road:
o ID Cards
o Display notification cards
o Comfortable Clothes
o Blanket and pillow
o Coat, hat, gloves, and boots (if applicable)
o Bibs (if applicable)
o Favorite Foods
o Snack Foods
o Fidget Toys
o Doodles and other drawing boards
o Card Games
o Paper and pencils
o iPod, DVDs, CDs, etc.
o Orthopedic equipment
o Feeding equipment
o Oxygen (if needed)
o Emergency contact information
o General medical supplies
Be Brave! Just remember that you're not alone and that traveling with a special needs child can be challenging, but it can be done, with proper planning and foresight.
For more information on Kutest Kids Intervention click here: http://www.earlyinterventionpa.com/
Amy Reinstein, M.S., CCC - SLP