It’s the time of year for all-things summer. And that means pool parties, popsicles on a hot day, chasing fireflies at night and taking some time off for the much needed summer family vacation. The dates are marked off on the calendar. The reservations have been made. You are all set to go, but maybe you’re starting to wonder: How is this going to work for my child with special needs? How do I make this vacation a positive experience, not only for them, but for all of us?
Angie Kost, an occupational therapist in Indianapolis, has provided some helpful tips on how to make summer travel a fun and truly inclusive experience for your child.
What are some things parents should consider when planning for a vacation with a child with disabilities?
Be aware of the accommodations available. For example, some places may allow a child with a disability (autism for example) to go ahead of the line for an activity. You will also want to know about safety and wheelchair accessibility, if that is needed. Another thing to consider is planning shorter activities so your child doesn’t get too fatigued, causing meltdowns.
Understand your child’s sensory needs and make adaptations or plans to address as necessary. For example, some children are overstimulated in loud or busy environments. In that case, you might modify where you go to eat, or how you do certain activities. Another example is that some children may be sensitive to the environment at the beach. Work on desensitization before the trip. A few examples might be reading a book about the beach, playing in sand or listening to a video of the ocean.
Be aware if your child has difficulty with changes in routine. If so, you might want to review the activities of the day, or consider creating a picture schedule. If things don’t go as you had hoped, that’s OK. Be flexible. You can also have an “oops” card for those instances that don’t go as planned.
What are some tips for traveling to and from the destination?
- Take frequent rest breaks for movement and for the bathroom.
- Have activities for the car or plane, such as fidgets, games or videos to watch.
- Snacks are your friend!
Finally, to make travel truly inclusive, don’t limit yourself to what summer activities you want to do. Learn to modify and adapt your plans to your child’s specific physical, intellectual or sensory needs. Be flexible, and have fun! Make memories that you and your family will cherish for a lifetime.