Why when I write the words vacation do I get both excited and nervous.

Excited because the THOUGHT of a vacation and time off or time away sounds really great.

Nervous because the TRUTH of a vacation is actually different from the thought.

But whatever your initial thoughts from immediately hearing the   “The Go-Go’s?” or wanting to hide your head under a pillow, it is the time of year when Spring break is coming and with it comes the decision about a vacation.

Do you take one? Do you go somewhere or maybe take a stay-cation?

But it is that time of year!  Time for many to take that Spring vacay.

And let’s be honest, vacations take A LOT of planning to accomplish.  From the lodging to travel to packing.  But add in the issue of special needs to the mix for many of us and that adds a whole new layer!

I have to say that this year, I was not in the mindset to plan a week long vacation for us all. So we decided to do a few things that week instead of one big thing. I think it is important to be honest about how you feel because when you add special needs to the planning for a trip it simply requires more work. And if you aren’t feeling that you have enough gas in the tank to take it on, it will be almost overwhelming.

My daughter Elizabeth has special needs.  Specifically, global dyspraxia and sensory processing disorder ( SPD).  So simply put, these disorders affect everyday of her life.  We have learned over the years what it is we need to do to make  vacations successful.  It does take some extra thinking and planning but it is so very worth it.

For us, we take the time to about the trip a few weeks before we are going helps because it allows for a nice conversation with Elizabeth as well as the chance to show her some videos or pictures of the places we are going.  We have learned how great Youtube can be for this!

We also show her pictures of the place we are staying so she can see which room is hers etc.  All these things help keep her anxiety down. We also try to pick a place that is a good fit for Elizabeth. Think a room for her alone and so that she can keep the lights on as she needs to and if won’t disturb others.

With our special children, we know their likes and dislikes so well and with that in mind, it is important to work with those likes/dislikes.  For example, since Elizabeth does NOT like the dark AT ALL, that assuring her she can pack as many nightlights as she would like helps her too.  She likes knowing she has control of this aspect of the trip.

Transitioning to a week “off” can be challenging for some children.  For Elizabeth, the open ended ideas of time to “relax” can actually produce anxiety.  So we help her by making sure she has a daily schedule as a to aid to help her see what we will be doing that day. We don’t hold it to the minute, just a nice loose schedule works for her. It gives her the structure she likes.

We try to plan things that she likes amidst things we want to do.

Not always easy or successful!  But we try.  This way she has something to look forward to.

Another thing we do is plan down time.  We know that more is not always better so we know that a well placed break time or quiet time is so calming for her and truthfully, all of us.  We have also worked on self-advocacy skills with Elizabeth, so she will tell us when she feels she needs a break.

Pack some favorite snacks and familiar toys( for the younger ones) as well as DVD’s for the trip..  Nothing ruins the fun more than a lapse in Wi-Fi or no cable when you were planning on using it!

I hope one or more of these hints helps someone! 

I wish everyone a peaceful week.

Michele Gianetti author of: Elizabeth Believes in Herself