Pack your bags

. February 8, 2013.

If your family has a child with special needs, it can be daunting to consider going out to dinner, let alone leaving on a family vacation.
Mary Meekins, a special education teacher, urges that although more planning may be necessary for families with special needs children, there’s no need to rule anything out. She adds, “You know your child best; don’t underestimate what your child can handle.”Basic things a parent can do when traveling with a special needs child will enhance the experience.
Contact the destination to see what accommodations are available. Fortunately, major tourist attractions accommodate children with a variety of disabilities beyond the need for wheel chair accessibility. Disney World is an excellent example. They offer discreet yet visible tags children can wear in any of the parks. For children who may become anxious and struggle in crowds, it allows alternate access and shorter wait periods to a variety of venues. To save park time, simply call ahead to determine how Disney can best assist you. Several parks and museums have similar options, and will work with you to ensure a great vacation.
Consider the needs of your child. Think about what your child needs during school or at social events. Are they sensitive to noise? Bring lightweight earphones. Is personal space an issue? Bring something they can hold onto, like a toy car or stuffed animal that sets a boundary between them and others. If your child uses a communication device during school, ask the teacher if your child can bring it with you on vacation. A lightweight waterproof backpack can be found at most sporting good stores. As your child acclimates, simply put
the item in the backpack until it is
needed again.
Focus on the fun, not the therapy. Vacation time is for fun and relaxation, and your child deserves a break from therapy. While it may be tempting to seize every opportunity as a teachable moment, let some things slide. Though you probably can’t stop therapy cold for a whole week, remember it is a vacation for your child as well. Pick and choose your battles. Chances are you need the break too!
Be realistic. If you need to leave the beach or park early, do it. While park passes may have been expensive, the point is to enjoy the day, doing what works best for the family. If jumping on a hotel bed is more fun than building sandcastles, so be it! A three day getaway might be all your child can handle. So while you might be wishing for a week, keep in mind that your child may be ready for that in a year or two!