Travelling With Special Needs Children: Parents of special needs children may find the prospect of international travel daunting, especially during the holidays. The family will be so far from home. The child will be thrown into confusion. He or she will be taken out of the ordinary routine and put into an unfamiliar environment. And before you even arrive at your destination, there’s all the usual holiday fervor at the airport.
Luckily, parents of special needs children are experts at knowing what their child’s needs are. Here are four tips on how to make sure these needs are met while traveling internationally.
If your child is on any medications, check ahead on whether these medications are available in the country you are visiting. Research pharmacies and first aid at your destination, and remember to check carefully for holiday hours. Ask your doctor’s advice on drug availability.
If possible, arrange to have a complete supply of all your child’s medications, and then store some of them in a separate bag. That way, if either supply gets lost or damaged, there will still be medications on hand until what was lost can be replaced.
At the Airport
Wings for Autism is a wonderful program for special needs children who are going on an airplane trip. The child goes to the airport days ahead of time and walks through the entire procedure of checking in and boarding the flight. Airline, airport and transportation security personnel participate in the rehearsal and get a chance to work with your special needs child. The program was developed for autistic kids, but it is available to all children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
On your own, you can anticipate such problems as long lines and delays, especially during the holidays. Have activities planned, or take a break at an airport restaurant. Bring snacks. Most airports have a day-use fee that allows access to their first-class lounges, which will be quieter and less distracting than the airport corridors. Ask for special consideration at the gate.
Research the Destination
The travel industry in America is well aware of needs for special access and other accommodations for travelers. This is not true of every country. Contact your hotel to make sure it has an elevator, wheelchair access, and a refrigerator in the room for special diets. Research every site you plan to visit.
Theme parks can be very good about providing assistance. Ask ahead of time, and reserve services where possible. Restaurants, historical landmarks and museums can all be found online. Research ahead of time to identify problems and prevent disaster.
Play It Safe
You will want to know where your special needs child is at all times. If you are traveling with your spouse, arrange some means for both of you to know who is watching the child at any particular time. Don’t be afraid to speak to security personnel at the airport, a theme park or other public place. They will be glad to be alerted to special needs and introduced to your child. They can return him or her to you more easily if the child wanders off.
Ask for help. Accept help when it is offered appropriately. And have fun.
Jason Kane doesn’t want anyone to feel like travelling with their family is too difficult. He is a blogger for Travel Guide, who have been providing travel documentation to both corporate and indivudual travellers.