You’ve been thinking about summer vacation all year and it’s just around the corner. Whether you are headed to the beach, the mountains, the country, overseas, a road trip to visit family or doing a stay-cation, keeping all family members in mind will make your vacation run smoothly. Vacations can be highly therapeutic and provide an on-the-road classroom for everyone to learn. A vacation provides opportunity to plan, cooperate, socialize and learn flexibility. So don’t shy away from what can be a much-needed break from routine. It can also be a wonderful sensory experience depending on the vacation you choose.
Choose a Place for Everyone to Visit
Long before you start to pack, you choose a place to visit. Planning ahead can help to find places that are more special needs savvy, yet maybe you are more of the “lets jump in the car and go.” But choosing a place that will accommodate your special needs child will probably make it easier on everyone. Most vacation spots are happy to provide special accommodations as long as you call or contact them before you go, which may actually be beneficial to everyone. Places like Disney World offer such accommodations, as do many theme parks. But even if you’re headed to the beach, you may want to call ahead to inquire about accessibility or special needs accommodations and to look for sensory friendly activities that provide unique experiences. A quick phone call can make all the difference.
In addition to accommodations, let your entire family help prepare. Even young children or those with limited abilities can help with part of the trip. Who can contribute to planning snacks, packing and activities? If you are doing a travel trip where you are going from place to place, involve your children (if possible) in helping you plan it out. Everyone can also help pack their own bags. Start by making a list together of essentials. Don’t forget items such as Ear Muffs for noisy places and items for bedtime routines such as favorite books, nighttime pals, favorite pillow, weighted blanket or aromatherapy. A good night’s sleep can mean a great day.
Sensory Tool Kit
Have you packed your special travel kit? A sensory savvy tool kit or bag packed with your favorite sensory travel tools can give everyone peace of mind and body. Does your child need a weighted lap pad to use during travel? Or a special travel buddy? What about some fine motor games or easy art activities? Did you pack their fidgets and chewies? Maybe a journal or diary would be good for working on writing skills and as a travel keepsake? Though no one has trouble remembering their iPad or electronic games, those can have a detrimental effect in the long run, so use those with caution and as a last resort.
Have you planned enough movement into your vacation? Look at each vacation day and make sure movement activities are incorporated into each day. This can be swimming, hiking, climbing, biking, walking or playing outdoor games. If your travels require a lot of sitting be sure that movement breaks are scheduled and keep some scarves, beanbag or a small ball handy for times when you have to sit or wait. A frisbee or ball can help with regulation during travel breaks or when you have a few spare moments between activities. Crossing midline and eye-hand coordination has shown tremendous benefit on focus, attention and calming.
Vacations bring new experiences, bonding and learning but they require flexibility as well. Plans can change quickly and showing your kids that the time together is what is most important can be a great lifelong lesson. How do you handle the stress of traffic? A change in activities? A long wait at the restaurant? These mini lessons can help your children learn to cope when life brings them a change as well.
Happy and Safe Travels!