7 Rules for Vacationing with Your Special Needs Child

August 29, 2013 Heiddi Zalamar, LMHC, MA

Vacation with your special needs child require a special set of rules. Not unlike some of the rules you may have in place at home. Having rules when vacationing allows me peace of mind. Vacationing with your special needs child isn't easy, but it can be fun. Here are some rules I use when traveling with Bob.

If you don't follow the rules, I can't protect you. Living in a large urban city, I'm faced with challenges that make parenting hard. Early on, I realized that Bob needed to understand how important it was to listen to me. This one is a classic because Bob used to (and sometimes still is) very nosy. He's very curious, wants to know what's going on and has to comment on it. The curiosity has decreased a bit, but his tendency to make loud comments has increased. We're working on that. In the meantime, Bob knows that I can better protect him when he listens to me.

Stick together. One of the trademark issues of having a child with ADHD is the impulsivity. Bob calls it the impulse to wander. Bob had trouble in the past with this one. It was "do first, think later" with him, which would make things really scary sometimes. As Bob has gotten older, this one improved. But, on vacations, he still has a touch of impulsivity due to the excitement of the trip. So this simple rule keeps him nearby.

Take entertaining things. Trips for us usually means waiting at the airport and then taking a flight. Bob gets bored very easily. One of my rules is to make sure he has different items that will keep him busy. His hand-held video game, a book, drawing materials and music are all traveling with him to keep him occupied. When kids are kept busy, everyone wins.

Punishment is portable. Before medication, Bob had great difficulty with impulse control and inattentiveness. It was much harder for him to function in a new setting because he was so excited. But, he'd burst into places without letting me see what was going on first. Or he'd act out if he did not get his way. I learned that punishment (ie time-out/loss of privileges) was portable. I could take it with me anywhere. Bob's been time-out at parties or other events. He's improved so much on this that it rarely happens anymore. But, at least that's there in case I need it.

Ask for Bob's input. Our trip takes us to a place where we both can have fun. But, I didn't do the planning all on my own. I asked Bob where he wanted to go at Disney (so many parks to choose from). Bob let me know what he wanted to do on the trip. Giving him some decision-making helps Bob grow and be more willing to do what needs to be done first in order to have a great time.

Give a quick run-down. Things go much smoother for us when I let Bob know what to expect. He knows how we'll get to the airport and the length of the flight. He also knows we'll at the airport early to go through security. I've prepared him for that as well since he hasn't been on a plane in three years. By letting him know what to expect, Bob is much better prepared to handle things.

Last, have fun. That's the goal of vacation. To just break out of the regular routine and have a great time. Yes, we'll still need to make sure Bob's taken his medication and that he follows the rules. But, the goal is to enjoy ourselves and share this special time as a family.

photo credit: Express Monorail via photopin cc

APA Reference
Zalamar, H. (2013, August 29). 7 Rules for Vacationing with Your Special Needs Child, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, April 18 from

Author: Heiddi Zalamar, LMHC, MA

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