Accommodations and Tips for Traveling!
Accommodations and Tips for Traveling!
Everybody looks forward to a family vacation, but the closer you get to the departure date, the more you feel some of the stressors that come along with what should be a relaxing vacation. Traveling with kids in general can mean a few curve balls being thrown your way, but when you have children with special needs, those curve balls can multiply! Below are some tips for making your trip run as smoothly as possible so you can enjoy your time away!
- First, always check to see if the attractions you will be visiting have programs or accommodations for children with special needs. Some parks and museums offer sensory-friendly events or areas.
- Think about your daily routine – there are likely some things that make your day run smoothly that are such a part of your daily life that it would be very missed if you had to go without it, like specific snacks, a special blanket, or a swing. Many things are easy to pack so that you don’t have to worry about finding it at your destination. But you may not be able to pack everything that you use on a daily basis, so get creative and think about how you can replicate some of the things you can’t pack. For example, a travel hammock could replace a swing and compacts down to a small pouch; a wiggle cushion or inflatable mattress are much smaller than a trampoline but can give similar input.
- Use visual schedules or social stories to prepare your child for the upcoming events and to add an element of routine/predictability. This will reduce stress and prevent meltdowns.
- If your child is sensitive to sensory input:
- Use a billed hat, sunglasses, or a sleep mask to reduce visual input.
- Pack ear plugs or headphones to reduce noise, or to play calming sounds at times.
- Use a weighted blanket, lap pad, or ankle weights to provide calming deep pressure.
- Heavy work activities can help regulate a child's arousal level, concentration, and ability to sit still and attend to a task.
- While driving or flying, use theraband or exercise bands for heavy work. Try stretching the band between your arms, or tie it into a loop and stretch between your feet!
- Stress balls, putty, pop beads, clothes pins, and other fidgets can make good heavy work activities for fingers and hands.
- Chewy snacks (licorice, gum, bagel, beef jerky) and sucking through a straw are great heavy work activities for your mouth!
- Before boarding the plane or at rest stops, try to work in some heavy work tasks. Push/pull a suitcase or cooler, carry a backpack, do jumping jacks, pushups, or animal walks.
- A note about Car Sickness: Car sickness is caused by the discord within the brain’s ability to process movement with visual input. For example, your visual system says you are moving as the landscape passes by; however, your body and the proprioceptive receptors of the brain say you are sitting still. As your sensory receptors cannot find a way to process both sides of the sensory input, your body begins to have a visceral reaction, leading to nausea. Another example occurs as you are trying to read a book in the car; your eyes are stationary on the book while the fluid in your ear canals are moving as the car goes over bumps and the car accelerates/decelerates; your brain has difficulty in processing if you are moving or if you are stationary as the input it is receiving does not match up.
Here are some popular vacation spots that offer special accommodations for children with special needs.
- Carowinds = Charlotte, NC
- Boarding Pass Program = Guests with mobility impairments or with autism spectrum disorder are able to receive a ride boarding pass with wait times. This allows guests to access the rides at specific times via the exit ramp in order to avoid crowds and waiting in the regular lines.
- Guests with disabilities need to stop at guest services at the front gate upon arrival for details on special accommodations.
- Here is the link to Carowinds for more information https://www.carowinds.com/plan-a-visit/guests-with-disabilities
- They offer wheelchairs free of charge to guests and have a transportation system from the parking lot to the entrance.
- The touch pool (where you can touch animals) has a special wheelchair access entry.
- For children with visual and hearing impairments tactile elements have been added to each exhibit. They also have cell phone and Ipad tours available.
- They have handicapped trained divers for anyone who wants to purchase the SCUBA or snorkeling package.
- More information can be found at http://www.georgiaaquarium.org/experience/visit/plan-your-visit/accessibility
- All 3 parks provide assistance passes for individuals with disabilities.
- Passes can be obtained at guest relations when you enter the park.
- The passes are different at each park, and this website helps to explain how each pass works and different tips and tricks to navigating the parks http://autismattheparks.com/index.html
-Matthew D’Antonio, DPT, PT
-Pediatric Physical Therapist