Travelling with kids with PDA
Travelling with kids with PDA is a daunting prospect. You only have to read my post on holiday stress to get a glimpse of the problems that we’ve encountered so far!
However, with a little pre-planning, challenges can be kept to a minimum.
Here are 10 tips that I have found to be very effective in helping to reduce the stress of a long car journey when travelling with kids with PDA and special needs in general.
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Snacks – if your child craves oral feedback, make sure that you’ve packed a variety of treats. I usually go with the 80/20 rules which means 80% healthy and 20% not so (this ensures that they do not feel deprived)! Place the treats in individual pots (portion control) in a carrier and let your child choose which to eat. If your kids ask before they eat more, which is great, try not to say “no”, try distraction first. The word “no” is often not received well!
Drinks – stopping for drinks on the way can often prove to be a sensory nightmare! Motorway services are not only busy but noisy too! Make sure that you have plenty of bottles of drink handy and we have found that a selection is better as it provides the means of making a choice and maintaining control. We have also found that smaller bottles are better as there is less to spill and you can regulate the input a little better.
Plan your stops carefully – It’s important to remember that, when drinking on long car journeys, comfort breaks are essential. If you child has various issues around toilets, it is possible to plan your stops accordingly. For example, we need to find toilets that are not busy, that afford some privacy and ideally that don’t smell – not always easy…
Top Tip: Radar Key – We found out about the Radar Key scheme when attending a Cygnet Course! This gives you access to the disabled toilets which are more often than not much cleaner, more private and have more room should you need it.
ASD Awareness Card – should the worst happen, the last thing that you want to be experiencing is comments from onlookers while you are dealing with a meltdown. I don’t know about you but I need to focus completely on the situation at hand and cannot afford to be distracted by onlookers, well meaning or not. On the Cygnet Course, I also found out about these cards! They are a little godsend. You can just give them to people and job done! I also make sure that my son has one in his wallet – just in case.
Comforters – does your child have a favourite toy/cuddly that provides security? Make sure that it is in the car! In our case this actually involves every single one of his soft toys! He must have upwards of 50, all or which are of varying sizes ranging from tiny to as big as him and he’s 12!!!
Sleep strategies – make sure that, if you use specific things to help your child to sleep, that you take them with you. Our son quite often has a nightlight diffuser going with essential oils! We forgot it one holiday and swore that we would never do so again!!!! You can see some of the strategies that we use in my post on Sleep Strategies for Managing PDA.
In car activities – make sure that you have plenty of in car activities at your finger tips! This is something that you can prepare beforehand. You can put together a list of things for the kids to spot and tick off. A particular favourite of our sons is eye spy but this is not without problems so plan your activities very carefully. If your kids like board games, there are plenty of travel packs out there and you could use simple lap trays as a table. A lip on the tray can help to provent vital pieces escaping. There are some great ideas in this article.
Ear Plugs/noise cancelling headphones – If your child is sensitive to noise then a good pair of noise cancelling ear phones, or a simple pair of ear plugs if they are tolerant of the feeling of something in their ears, would be a good investment. The last thing you want is to have to keep the windows closed to try and reduce traffic noise!
Identification – if your child is a runner or wanderer, it is a very good idea to have some form of identification on them. This can come in many forms: bracelets, necklaces, badges even temporary tattoos which we have used in the past and were great. They usually have enough space for emergency contact details and an alert. Whatever you choose, make sure it is suited to your child. Where PDA is concerned, start planning this early and involve the child in the decision making.
Medication – it goes without saying that if your child is on medication then it must go with you. However, also consider illnesses that may occur during the journey. There is nothing worse that dealing with a child with travel sickness, or a headache, for example, at the best of times. When travelling with a child with special needs this could just be the “straw that breaks the camels back”!
A holiday is a time for fun and relaxation and there is absolutely no reason why it can’t be the same for families of children with special needs.
If you’ve found this post helpful, please let me know by commenting below as I’d love to know what works for you. Some of the items that are mentioned in this post can be found below. Not all are affiliate links but they are all things that we currently use or have done so in the past.
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Until next time, stay strong
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