15 tips for traveling with a special needs child

Special Needs

The King’s Daughters’ School is a non-profit residential school, located in Columbia, TN, which serves individuals from age seven to late adulthood with developmental disabilities.
  1. If possible, allow the child to choose a destination that he/she would like to visit.
  2. Be thoughtful when choosing a destination! Will it be too crowded? Will lines be too long? Will it be too hot or over stimulating? Keep in mind what the child’s hot buttons are!
  3. Call ahead for special discounts and accommodations at travel destinations. State parks frequently offer discounts and may have certain cabins that are more appropriate for individuals with special needs. Fishing licenses are also available at discounted rates for those with disabilities.
  4. Create a social story about the trip and go over it often.
  5. Prepare him/her by looking up the destination and any planned attractions on the internet, so he/she will know what to expect.
  6. Let the child assist in getting ready for the trip, whether it’s having him/her pack their own bags or selecting trip activities.
  7. Bring along several familiar and desired items, so the child does not feel totally out of his/her element.
  8. Create a calendar and agenda so he/she is aware of exactly when the trip will take place as well as what activities will take place on the trip.
  9. The day the trip begins, move the schedule to a white board so that adjustments can easily be made.
  10. Bring plenty of distractions, such as a DVD player with their favorite movies, portable video games and his or her favorite toys. These will not only come in handy during travel time, but at any point during the trip when waiting is anticipated.
  11. Be prepared! Bring a first aid kit, wet naps, sunscreen, hats and any other weather appropriate items. Various medications make children more prone to sun burn.
  12. Stock up on snacks and fluids. Always have water on hand, not only for hydration, but also for taking medications.
  13. Bring multiple reinforcers—you never know when the usuals might fail you.
  14. Token and choice boards are a must. These boards allow the child to decide what he/she would like to work towards, and rewards are earned over a period of time rather than immediately, which may encourage prolonged good behavior.
  15. Whatever you do, don’t forget to pack plenty of patience! Never have expectations of a perfect trip, or you will only be let down. Just try to do the best you can and enjoy yourself!
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