Traveling with Special Needs Children
You and your family love to travel. One of your kids has special needs to be considered. Here are some tips on traveling with kids with physical or mental disabilities.
Most U.S. travel destinations, hotels, and restaurants are required by law to accommodate disabled individuals. Wheel chair ramps, elevators, wide doorways, and other accommodations are commonly found in U.S. locations. Foreign locations may not have similar laws: if you are planning foreign travel, check the laws of your destination country. This information can be obtained from the U.S. Department of State.
Check with your family’s health insurance company. Find out how your health insurer covers medical care this is provided away from home.
If you plan foreign travel, make sure that your preferred method of telephonic communication (cellular telephone, calling card, etc.) will work in your foreign destination. This information can be obtained by contacting the issuer of your cellular telephone or calling card.
Pack things to address anticipated needs. Video games, DVD’s, snacks, beverages, and other items keep ADHD kids from becoming impatient or bored with long travel times or wait times. Portable potties, adhesive bandages, antibiotic cream, moist towelettes, and other items address common biological needs that may crop up. Pillows, blankets, and a CD of relaxing music can help soothe kids who are struggling or stressed. Noise-cancelling headphones and darkening eye masks can help an over-stimulated child. Disabled parking permits that are portable (as opposed to those that are adhered to your car) should be packed if you will be using a rental vehicle during your travel. Medicine (prescription and non-prescription) should be packed in their original containers: this is especially important if you will travel by air.
Some special needs kids are sensitive to disruptions of their normal routines. For these kids, keep wake times, bedtimes, nap times, and meal times the same when traveling as they would be if you were home. It may sound relaxing to sleep late on your vacation, but the disruption to routine may create turmoil that removes any relaxation association with sleeping late.
For kids who have wheelchairs or other large equipment, ensure that your rental car, motel rooms, and destinations are aware that you will need accommodation-appropriate facilities. For example, make sure that you request a wheelchair-accessible motel room when you make your reservations.
Notify the airline if your family needs accommodations while flying. Ask to have seats near the front of the airplane, ideally just behind the wall that divides first class from coach seating. (ADHD and other kids like to keep their feet moving. People whose seatbacks are being kicked are typically unhappy. If your kids kick the wall, there are fewer problems.) Minimize layovers, etc.: a non-stop flight is ideal.
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