Family Life, Special Needs, Stages

Traveling with Children with Disabilities

Have you been looking forward to summer vacation, but dreading the thought of traveling with your little ones? Traveling with children has its challenges, however, traveling with a child with any type of disability can be a great source of stress for the child and the family. Any type of transition, especially novel ones, can be difficult for many children, and traveling can add a more challenging dimension. Preparing before leaving the house can be the biggest key to success for traveling with any child

Before your trip:

Create a social story.

Social stories include placing the child in the novel situation. For example, if you are going to France, you can create a story where the child visits the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and the bakery to purchase croissants. This can be easily accomplished with Google images, an uploaded picture of your child, and creating a story book on Google slides. The child can easily access it on an iPad, print it out, laminate it, and even be bound by a ribbon of their favorite color. Get creative, and don’t forget to include packing for the trip and how the destination will be reached.

Visit the airport.

The MSY airport has a Guest Pass Program that is available 7 days a week, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Any person over the age of 13 can obtain a guest pass, and anyone 12 years or younger, does not need one when accompanied by a parent with a Guest Pass. The Guest Pass allows individuals to go through TSA and explore the airport terminals and gates.

Check out MSY’s Hidden Disabilities Program.

The Hidden Disabilities Program is recognized by many airports worldwide and is a green lanyard with bright yellow sunflowers. It has become adopted as an international symbol for those who need a little extra assistance due to a hidden disability such as autism, anxiety disorders, dementia, low vision, hearing loss, epilepsy, mobility issues, or various other issues.

Research where you are traveling.

Have the child explore the destination with books, travel websites, and brochures. Check online streaming services and search for the destination.

Pack early.

Have your child assist with packing, and provide them with a kid-friendly suitcase to pack. The suitcase can also be used as a transitional item, representing something from home that is “theirs” to bring along their travels.

During your trip:

Be sure to have these items packed while getting to and from the destination:

Using these strategies can assist with many children for all different ages and abilities. Having a child be part of the process and informed about the destination and process can ensure a positive and successful experience for the family.

Kimberly Bradley

Kimberly Bradley, MS, LOTR, a pediatric occupational therapist, writes the “Wiggle Room” column.

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