In celebrating the holidays, many families find themselves traveling to see relatives. While this can mean piling everyone in the car and going for some, when you have a child with special needs, it’s not that easy. There are a lot of things that must be taken into consideration ranging from accessibility and sensory issues to food or medication and changes in routine. If your family is getting ready to travel over the holidays – or even throughout the year – here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Plan ahead. This is probably common sense for many people. Start your planning well in advance so you’re not rushing around at the last minute figuring out what to pack or how to get to your destination. Making checklists can be a great way to stay organized and make sure that you don’t forget anything. As you’re going about getting ready, you can always add to your list as you think of other things you need to do or bring.
Allow extra time. If you’re traveling by car, you’ll want to schedule in breaks so that everyone can get out and stretch, use the bathroom, or have a snack. If traveling by plane, allow for extra time to check baggage, go through security, and find your way to the right gate. The holidays are often especially busy with more travelers than usual, so leave early to make sure you don’t miss your flight.
Ask about accommodations. Check with the airline about any accommodations they may offer for passengers with special needs. There may be a quiet area where you can wait for your flight or the opportunity to board first (or last) to make getting settled easier. Let them know ahead of time if you’re traveling with any special equipment or require extra help getting on the plane.
Bring a few favorites to pass the time. Let your child pack a small bag with some of their favorite items to keep busy. A stuffed animal, game, book, or other toy that they love can be comforting and help them feel more at ease. It also gives them something to do while waiting. Make sure you have batteries or chargers for anything electronic.
Talk about what to expect. Discuss riding in the car – especially if it’s a longer trip – or in an airplane before you start your trip. Talk about sights and sounds, people they may encounter, strategies for reducing stress, and what to expect. While you can’t prepare them for everything, you can give them a better idea of what might happen and some ways to respond. Social stories can be a good way to prepare.
Be flexible. Anyone with children knows that not everything always goes according to plan. Try to stay calm and adjust to whatever comes your way. This can help your child to remain calmer as well. Plan a few activities for if you should get stuck in traffic or the plane is delayed.
Through therapy at PediaPlex, children can learn to not only be more independent, but also more adaptable to change and navigating new situations. It can help to reduce undesirable behaviors while promoting desirable ones. In addition, children can improve their communication and relationship building as well. PediaPlex offers a wide range of services for children with autism spectrum disorders, developmental disabilities, learning challenges, and much more. Work with your child’s therapist to help plan for smoother travel this holiday season.
Does your child struggling with behavior, communication, or adapting to change? Find out how PediaPlex can help them thrive.