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Vacationing With Your Special Needs Child

All of our gang
All of our gang
Kerry Johnson

Vacationing With Your Special Needs Child
As parents of special needs children everything is in life is harder. Take vacations, it is too hard to take them to a new place and then if you leave them home you feel guilty the entire time you’re gone. Your family needs vacations and can be successful in taking them if you approach it in a manner your child can adjust to.

The Perfect Storm
It's a dilemma, do you take your special needs child on vacation or do you leave them home? It’s a question every parent with a child who has special needs asks themselves. If your child doesn't get what they want or need when they demand it a meltdown is inevitable. At home in a familiar setting your child gets overwhelmed but you know what to expect and they know what to anticipate. Almost all children with special needs children have some type of sensory issues, add a strange bed, strange people, different routine, strange smells and strange noises and you have the makings of "a perfect storm".

I'm not saying skip the vacation nor am I saying leave your special needs child at home, just the opposite. It's good for them to experience new places and new things however planning a vacation with your other children and your special needs child is very different. Just know it's going to be rocky and have a plan ready for it.

Vacation Preparation
Preparing for a vacation with your special needs child takes more time and effort then with "normal" children but it’s worth it. My families favorite place to vacation is Disney World, they are so great with accommodating families with special needs children. One thing most parents don't know is if you take a note from your doctor to customer services they will give you and your family a “special needs” pass. Getting the pass honestly can make or break your trip. The special needs pass is used at every ride. They usually have you go through the exit area so your child doesn't feel crowded by others in the regular line. There is really no guarantee that you still won't have to wait but it’s in an area where there aren't crowds of people. When you get to the ride the staff there are trained to handle these situations and they are great.

Another way to make the trip successful is start talking about the trip with your child ahead of time. It helps them process the information so that when it’s time to go they have had some time getting used to the idea, let them help plan your trip as much as possible. Be as proactive as possible by heading off problems before they develop.

Here are some other ideas:

  1. Prepare them about what they are going to see and do.
  2. Take snacks and water into the park with you. If your bags are inspected simply tell them you have a special needs child that needs them. I have never been turned down.
  3. Have a plan. Who is going to do what and if there are any meltdowns.
  4. Another important thing is if at all possible stay on Disney property, that way if your child gets overwhelmed, gets tired or is just having a bad day there are courtesy buses to each hotel for some rest time then after they have napped or rested they will be ready to go back and the rest of your family hasn't had to leave.

There are many books out there that are very informative in planning your trip. Don't stress out, just take it one step at a time. It’s a lot for them to process but it is well worth the extra steps you have to take.

Take your time
Don't try to do everything in one day. Split it up and go swimming one day and another park another day. Or do half days at the park in the morning, go to the pool after lunch then by dinner time head back to the park for all kinds of activities and most important the fireworks and light shows.

If your child has sensory issues with noise get them some foam ear plugs. They work wonders and are worth the money. They filter out the loud noises but allows them to still enjoy the fireworks and parade.

I hope this has been helpful and convinced you to go ahead and take your vacation. You all need and deserve it.