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Best tips for travelling with a child with special needs

Children with disability

Travelling with children

By Michael Hawton

6th December, 2018

Article courtesy of Lillian Brooks lillian@learningdisabilities.info

Are you and the kids craving a holiday? Taking a family vacation can often get pretty complicated, especially if your child has a disability. However, you can ensure everyone’s needs and desires are met with a little planning and preparation.

Thinking ahead

Making advance preparations can be especially beneficial in helping your family enjoy a smooth vacation. If air travel is involved, allow ample time for airport security checks. If you suspect security checks will be difficult for your child physically or emotionally, discuss particulars with the airport’s Security Officer in advance. Trip Savvy recommends explaining the situation to your child ahead of time and doing some role playing to lower the stress of the situation. Also, allow extra time for loading and unloading, and keep in mind that airports have different processes.  Maintain a flexible mindset to avoid generating stress and anxiety for yourself and your children. Also think carefully about your child’s seat on the plane. Children who feel claustrophobic can feel anxious by the window, and some seats provide more headroom than others.

Specialised equipment

Does your child require any specialised equipment? If you’re planning on air travel, research the guidelines for your location and destination. Family Travel Forum points out that for some families with children with disabilities, the best choice is a road trip. Air or train travel can often mean being removed from medical facilities, and if your youngster has specialised equipment, loading, boarding, and unloading can become stressful and complicated.

One way to circumvent that is by purchasing a used vehicle. You can easily research vehicles online to locate reasonably priced and appropriate used cars through websites like Gumtree. Buying can be less costly than renting; this holds true if you are planning on international travel, particularly in countries like Australia, where the cost of living is high. At the end of your holiday, you can sell the vehicle to recoup the expense. This also allows you to ensure your child’s seating and storage needs are met by finding a vehicle with the right accommodations.

Medical concerns

Do some research into what medical facilities are located at your destination, and verify you will have insurance coverage should any medical situations arise. If your child is on any medications, create a complete, typewritten list to take with you. If you are travelling abroad, have a translation prepared in the language or languages of your destination locations. Experts at Friendship Circle suggest discussing your travel plans with your pediatrician, as some physicians might recommend medication or supplements to help with anxiety. A letter from the pediatrician explaining your child’s condition could also be helpful in certain circumstances.

Check accommodations

 While most airlines are well-rehearsed for accommodating people with disabilities, some attractions and lodging choices are less adept. For example, historic hotels and historic sites are not always equipped for wheelchair access, and some countries tend to offer better provisions overall than others. One suggestion is to seek major chains when arranging lodging to ensure your child’s needs can be met. Discuss specific needs with the hotel, and never assume the hotel will offer anything that is a must-have. As far as particular attractions, contact individual locations directly to verify accessibility. Similarly, special events, parks, restaurants, and other tourist (and non-tourist) locales should be inquired with specifically to ensure you and your family members can all enjoy them comfortably.

As a parent of a child with a disability, you’re used to being clever and thinking things through.  Travelling with a child whose needs are special can be challenging, but it’s far from impossible. With a little planning and preparation, you can ensure a smooth excursion. Thanks to your research, everyone in your family will enjoy a wonderful holiday.

About the author

Michael Hawton is the founder of Parentshop, providing education and resources for parents and industry professionals working with children. He has authored two books on child behaviour management: Talk Less Listen More and Engaging Adolescents.


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