A network to share best practices for children with special needs
Traveling with a child with sensory needs can be challenging to say the least. The normal routine is certainly out the window. However, there are some tips that may help along the way –some that you can prepare for with some advanced planning and some that you may need to either create a grab bag on the spot or always have a plan B.
First off I would always have a bag of tricks where ever you go. A sensory bag full of fidgets, bubbles, chewies, and sensory stimulating food. My son after many years of therapy finally would let me know he was over loading by saying “I need gum”. I always had some handy and then knew how to redirect some of the upcoming activities based on what I knew he needed-a break, a quiet space or if we were moving physically a moment of stillness. Sometimes on some trips to theme parks I actually would plan the more vestibular stimulating rides spaced out throughout the day-he would love the rush of rollercoasters, Splash Mountain and bumper cars and I found that spaced out the whole family ended up having a better time. Traveling in a car was always a challenge. Although ever the thrill seeker, my little guy would get the back seat I’m going crazy syndrome but what I found was that DVDs and IPADs seemed to do the trick to help occupy the long drive. Flying was always a challenge but the same technology trick seemed to work there too. Along with gum to help pop the ears.
There are now an ever growing number of hotels and destinations that are preparing for families traveling with special needs children. For example of a few: The Wyndam in Tampa has a sensory bag upon check in (if you let them know in advance) and there are several places in Vermont that also are prepared for kids that I have been to in the ski areas. More and more gluten free options are popping up at restaurants and other establishments as well. It never hurts to ask how facilities are prepared for their guests or google for resorts and destinations to see what kind of activities may work for the whole family.
Last but not least traveling can be challenging so it is important that as a family or group that everyone knows what their roles are ie. Who can help, who can jump in and redirect, and the plan B. There can always be a plan B during the traveling that can accommodate the sensory child while not completely derailing the trip. Make sure all members of the trip are on board. Travel is not the time to have to defend your child’s sensory needs to well-meaning grandparents, aunts and uncles. But by all means don’t refuse a helping hand if one is offered. And enjoy your summer weeks. School is right around the corner.