BY JULIA DERKOVITZ, SUPERVISOR AT SUNY FREDONIA
According to Autism Speaks, the newest statistics state 1 in 91 children have been labeled with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder. This means it is more prevalent than child cancer, juvenile diabetes, and pediatric AIDS combined. Chances are you or someone you know are affected by this disability. If your family is dealing with a child who may have a special need, it can be daunting to consider going out to dinner, let alone going on a family vacation.
Mary Meekins, a special education teacher urges that although more planning may be necessary for families of special needs children, it should definitely not be ruled out. She adds, “You know your child best; don’t underestimate what your child can handle.”
There are some basic things a parent can do when traveling with a special needs child. My son, for example, struggles with acclimating to a new place. He may need an extra minute to sit in the car before he will join us. Also, strange or loud noises can greatly upset him. We travel with light ear phones that he can quickly slide on when he needs it. When he is feeling anxious, he may feel calmer if he has a small toy to hang on to. When he feels better, we simply place these things in a backpack he can carry with him.
Fortunately, several major tourist attractions will accommodate children with a variety of disabilities that go beyond wheel chair accessibility. Disney World is an excellent example. They offer discreet yet visible tags children can wear in any of the parks. For children who may become anxious and struggle in crowds, it allows alternate access and shorter wait periods to a variety of venues. To save park time, simply call ahead to determine how Disney can best assist you. Several parks and museums have similar options, and will work with you for a great vacation.
A little extra planning can go a long way. And, like Mary suggested, your child may surprise you. Our son ended up being quite the adventurer! It made our trip even better than we anticipated.
Julia has been involved with education for over twelve years now. She has taught at both the elementary and high school levels. Julia also has been an adjunct professor at SUNY Fredonia in the education department. Currently, she works part time at SUNY Fredonia supervising student teachers. She lives in Bemus Point with her husband and two children.