Blog #208~Vacation Tips for Parents of a Child With Special Needs
Are you a parent of a child with special needs, that will be going on vacation soon? If so, then this blog is for you. It can be a lot of work ahead of time getting ready for a trip. But it is well worth it to be prepared and have a plan in place to help your child feel more relaxed and secure.
Here are 7 Vacation Tips for Parents of a Child with Special Needs:
1. Prepare social stories and visual schedules including the mode of travel, and what is expected from your child. Review the vacation destination venue online with your child. This will give them an idea of where they will be going, and what they will be doing. Print pictures of the vacation venue to create a daily activity schedule. Visuals will provide a blueprint for your child to understand what will be happening, this will lessen their anxiety.
2. When booking accommodations, look for a comfortable and quiet retreat for your family. This may mean a separate living area from the rest of your family or friends in some cases.
3. Bring medications, snacks, comfort items and highly preferred toys/sensory objects in your carry on bag. In addition, it’s wise to pack an extra set of clothes for your child.
4. Plan short, flexible and open-ended adventures on your vacation. Build in time for breaks as needed.
5. Work in at least a few activities that your child will love.
6. Eating familiar foods will help your child feel more at home in a strange place. Check resturaunt menus online beforehand, especially in the case of any food allergies or dietary restrictions. Don’t underestimate the importance of this. Once on vacation, we forgot to buy Ranch dressing, this lead to my son having a meltdown.
7. Don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go as planned. As much as you can, try to watch for the triggers that may cause your child to have a meltdown. See what you can do to cut these off at the pass before things escalate.
My son Nick is 24 years old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism. There are definite triggers that can lead to him having a meltdown. Besides the Ranch dressing incident, we’ve experienced several instances where heat has caused him to lose his cool. On two different family reunions, Nick got upset waiting in the heat for the family group pictures to be taken. Another occasion was a city tour on a 90+ degree day. We pushed the envelope too far, trying to walk back to the car, which was a good 10 blocks away. Nick wanted no part of it. He got very upset and it quickly escalated to a meltdown. In retrospect, I should have asked a family member to get the car to us.
Hot Spring, AR was extra hot that day. Nobody is happy here…….
When meltdowns happen, get your child to a safe spot and allow them to recover fully. Reassure your child that he is loved and safe. Most important as a parent, remain calm in these situations. Afterwards review with your family what the antecedents were, that led to the behavior. Learn from these, so you can avoid and control them in the future.
Vacations while fun, can be challenging for a child with special needs. Prepare in advance with comfort items, visuals, and look for possible triggers that may cause anxiety and discomfort for your child. Build in as much predictability as possible. Keep a relaxed and flexible attitude when approaching daily activities. It’s okay to cut things short, if it gets to be too much. Have a great summer, and don’t forget to pack the sunscreen! I’ll be sure to pick up some Ranch dressing too.
That’s what is in my noggin this week. 🙂
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