Vacations.

They certainly are fun, great times to be together.

And they certainly require a bit of work to prepare for.  Okay, a lot of work to prepare for.  

And anyone who has planned a trip with children knows what I mean.  (Do not forget their favorite toy to sleep with!)  It takes the skills of a pretty organized person to remember all the details.

But for those who have a child with special needs,

the organization and planning can go to a whole new level.

Trust me!

I was thinking about this fact just yesterday because we went away for the day with everyone.

And it dawned on me, just how easy/yet conditioned my planning has become.  By planning, I mean making sure that we think of Elizabeth and her needs.  Her disorders, Dyspraxia and Sensory Processing Disorder, although so much better, will always be there.  So this conditioned planning is the way we have learned to make outings and vacations as successful and enjoyable as they can be.

So I thought I would pass on some of these things to other special needs parents and ALL parents:  Especially during the summer vacation times!

1-SEE THE TRIP THROUGH THEIR NEEDS

When we think of a trip we want to take, we imagine what we would like, find the place, get excited and we are ready to go!..

Now take a moment and see the trip through a child’s special needs:

-How long will the car ride go?  What should we bring to make it better?  Music? Toys? Which sensory tools?

-Will that nice restaurant mind if you bring in some of your own food?  You know the food that will assure your child will enjoy the experience?

-Will that ride your other children are talking about be too much for your special needs child?

-Will that day trip spent at an amusement park have a place for a quiet moment for your child to regroup?

-Will the hotel room be too small for your child to have a quiet, calming space after a busy day? Maybe a bigger room or suite would be helpful.

-Should you have a kitchen available in your room?   Sometimes making a dinner and relaxing is better than trying to get a sensory overloaded child to a restaurant.

I know that the time spent running the trip through this filter will pay off when you are actually on the vacation.  You will have such a better mental assessment and plan for your days.  And also, what you will do if your child has a struggle or meltdown.  

Anything you can do to help the days go smoothly will only be helpful.

2-TALK TO YOUR CHILD

I have found that sitting down with Elizabeth, a few weeks prior to the trip, to tell her what we are planning is very helpful.  

When she was little we kind of made it like a social story.  We had some pictures of where we were headed.

I have also found that going on the internet to show her various websites of the places we are planning is also helpful. Because it allows her to get a true visual of what she can expect.  

This leads to a nice discussion and I can help her talk through anything she is a bit nervous about.

Because we do this early on, we have time to do it again….and again.   

Because our children can require things to be talked about many times before they are okay with it.

At this point, I usually make a list, with Elizabeth’s help, of all the things she wants to bring to help her feel a bit more in control.   Last time, she asked for her flashlights for the dark hotel room, her nightlights (same reason), her DVD/CD player and her Senseez pillow.   

Again, this work before the trip does pay off in the long run.

3-TALK TO YOUR OTHER FAMILY MEMBERS

It would seem like this would be something you might not have to do, but trust me, it does need done.

Because I know my children know that Elizabeth will NOT do certain things by choice. And they know that after a few hours, she is ready for a break. So it certainly surprises me, when they are surprised she will NOT go on that ride or they press for a bit more time walking around, when she is asking for a break.

I know that making it all work for everyone is tricky, but very doable.

I want everyone to get to do all the things they want on a trip…don’t we all?

But the truth is, it requires more work to accomplish this when you have a child with special needs.

So I have found it helpful to talk to “the sibs” and have them understand how we might have to work things when Elizabeth has a struggle.

I like to do this when we are having a fun talk about the trip because the conversation is light and talking about Elizabeth can get mixed in.  

This way they understand that that ride they want, can happen, just not all of us at one time.

The long walk around town, will happen.  But maybe better placed in the morning.

I think shared expectations make for a better outcome….so talk, talk and talk.

4-MAKE SOME MEMORIES!

Enjoy what you have accomplished in making this trip happen.

And enjoy all the successes, be them small or big.

Take those mental pictures!  They will be with you forever.

I will guarantee you that there are families who have the PERFECT vacation, everyone has to make allowances for personalities and moods. So do not worry, do not compare.

Just be.

I wish you all a peaceful week.

Michele

 

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