Written by: In the Community

Traveling with a Special Needs Child

School is coming to a quick close. Graduations and summer vacations seem to be the topic in every Facebook post I see. While most of us are excited to plan our vacations, I recognize that planning and taking summer vacations can be daunting for others.

Families with special needs children have way more to consider and prepare for than the rest of us. Before becoming a travel writer, I was a special education teacher and then a behavior specialist for severely disturbed children. At times, it was overwhelming just to get them out of class and on the playground never mind through an airport and on a plane.

Traveling for the child is stressful, as well as for those traveling with him or her. Everyone is being taken out of their familiar surroundings, routine and support systems; therefore, so much has to be considered and well thought out. There is way more that goes into traveling with these special people than I can include in one article, but I wanted to touch on a few key tips to help you have a good start to a very much deserved vacation.

  • Plan and plan some more. Make sure you have thought out every possible scenario and are prepared for it.
  • Consider the time of day your child travels best. Having worked for years with these children, I know that each child has a better time of day for certain things — so be cognizant of that.
  • Have things for them to occupy their time and snacks to eat. Do not forget their favorite blanket or stuffed toy.
  • Bring along a change of clothes and make sure they start their journey off in their favorite clothes. Even if they have worn the same clothes for four days straight, let them wear them again!
  • Incorporate some “moving” time. If there is one thing I learned teaching, it’s that these children need to be able to get up and move about. To stay in one place too long is torture for them and those around them. If you are driving, plan stops along the way; and if flying, consider if layovers work in your favor.
  • Consider staying at an Airbnb or the equivalent versus a hotel. A house is far more flexible in terms of space, downtime capabilities and food.
  • Picking a place that your child really loves is key to everyone having a good time. If they are happy, everyone else is happy. That being said, balance is important, as your other children might get tired of the same place over and over — so pick a similar place and one with activities that interest the others traveling with you.
  • Not everyone you encounter along the way is going to be understanding of your situation, so here is where you learn the lesson of tolerance, patience and, unfortunately, for a few hurtful people that cross your path, forgiveness.

Remember this: Your main goal is to provide your child with a safe, memorable vacation — and that includes you smiling. Once you have done all the prep work, take things in stride. If there is a mishap, deal with it and move on. Nothing is perfect in life, and things happen; so, take the pressure off of yourself, which will enable you to have a good summer vacation with your child and family.

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Last modified: June 13, 2022