With longer days, warmer weather, and the kids out of school, summers are ideal for families to catch up on some quality time together after a busy school year. Travel is a great way to bond with loved ones, but parents of special needs children may feel that this isn’t an option. On the contrary, taking a trip can be an engaging, educational, or inspirational experience for special needs children, regardless of their behavioral health conditions.
Here are some tips that can help make travel with high needs kids more enjoyable for everyone:
Prepare Whenever Possible
Whether or not parents have children with special needs, traveling with kids can have its hiccups, but a little bit of preparation can minimize these unexpected moments and give parents peace of mind. Though there are some things that are out of parents’ control, being proactive about the factors they can control is the easiest way to keep things running smoothly.
Parents can start by ensuring their special needs children are getting a full night’s sleep in general, but especially leading up to a trip. Make sure nutritious snacks are packed for them, which will provide the energy for a long day of travel or exploration. Taking these simple steps can help reduce crankiness and meltdowns, and give kids the opportunity to feel (and behave) to the best of their ability. If a special needs child is in foster care, don’t forget to check in with their case worker before leaving on a trip!
Consider the Best Options
Though parents can’t always plan everything around their children’s wants, making a few concessions here and there may be in everyone’s best interests. Being able to anticipate a special needs child’s comfort levels in certain situations can be invaluable in the long run. Parents should consider travel destinations with activities that are conducive to their child’s likes and dislikes. For example, if a special needs child gets antsy around large crowds, don’t plan a trip to a place that is likely to be crowded, like an amusement park. Instead opt for a place with open spaces, like a national park.
If a special needs child doesn’t do well being away from home, it doesn’t mean travel is out of the question. A simple remedy to this is bringing along comfort items that remind them of home, like a blanket, a stuffed animal, or bringing along familiar movies. Choosing to travel by car gives families of special needs children much-needed freedom and control, versus traveling by plane, which can come with extensive delays, long layovers, and impatient passengers.
Make the Best of Things
One of the most valuable things to remember when traveling with special needs children is to manage expectations, yet remain positive. Although a change in scenery and routine can be rewarding, it’s unrealistic to expect things to be perfect on vacation if there are typically difficult moments with special needs children on a daily basis. But despite any challenging instances that may crop up, it’s important to look at the trip as a whole, rather than focusing in on those passing moments of stress.
Parents should remember to keep a sense of humor and try to be present during these family trips and outings. Making the effort to approach less-than-ideal situations with a relaxed, positive outlook can free up space to focus on the good and make more meaningful connections with their children.
Following these few strategies can help make family travel with special needs children more efficient and less stressful so that everyone can focus on making happy memories with loved ones!
If your child has a hard time adjusting after a summer trip, Hoyleton Youth and Family Services offers counseling services. Contact the Behavioral Health Department for more information (618) 688 – 4727.
American Academy of Pediatrics : https://www.aap.org/en-us/Pages/Default.aspx
Illinois Department of Natural Resources : https://www.dnr.illinois.gov/Pages/default.aspx