22 March 2012

Traveling with your child with special needs

By Natan Gendelman D.O.M.P  |  http://www.healthinmotionrehab.com  |  http://www.enabledkids.ca

Traveling can be a great opportunity to learn about and experience new things together with your child. When the process goes smoothly, it is also a good way to develop closer ties among family and friends. However, this process can also be challenging, especially when traveling with a child that has special needs. Many of the patients and families I treat from overseas have experienced issues with arranging transportation, finding the right food and booking the right accommodations. All of these items need to be arranged well in advance in order for the whole process to run smoothly. As a result, I would like to cover a few things to keep in mind when you’re preparing to travel with your child. Hopefully this will aid you in plans for your own trip with your child, and also generate a discussion about what you’d like to share and learn more about in regards to traveling and accessibility.

Food in foreign countries

Now whether or not a child or adult has special needs, what a person eats can have a huge impact on their health, behaviour and cognitive function. When traveling, this becomes even more important as food sensitivities, allergies and intolerances can all pose risks during your child’s mealtime. As a result, it is important to pay attention to what you and your child are eating, and to ask questions about ingredients and preparation wherever you go. Since the regulations regarding food production change from country to country, even foods which are familiar to you and your family may be grown, produced and processed according to different standards.

For this reason, offer your child items that are light and easy to digest such as plenty of fresh (preferably organic) fruits and vegetables throughout the first few days of your trip. As well, certain foods may contain different ingredients than your child is used to, such as dyes or preservatives. As always, read the labels on the products you buy and eat, and try not to switch drastically from the kinds of foods your child is used to eating.

Accessibility Challenges

Another aspect of travel that you will need to consider is accessibility, especially if your child uses a wheelchair or other specialized equipment on a regular basis. Many countries have facilities that are said to be accessible, but this may be different from what you actually encounter while you are there. Last year when I visited Cuba, I found it very hard to watch an elderly couple struggle to climb a steep flight of stairs, as the plane they were trying to board didn’t have any other means of access. Thinking about what a person using a walker or wheelchair might encounter, it is extremely important to check with your travel agent whether the place you are going will meet your child’s accommodation needs, including facilitating ramps, elevators and a roll-in shower.

Of course, when you decide to go on a trip with your child, it is important to speak with him and help him understand where you all will be going, and what for. There are some great articles by about.com and Friendship Circle I’ve linked to below that give great tips on ways to prepare your child for traveling. By getting him used to the idea of going on the trip ahead of time, you can reduce any anxiety he may have, and prevent him from becoming overwhelmed and overexcited by the experience. I think that is an important step towards a fun and successful travelling experience.

If you have any questions, comments or experiences to share about what worked and didn’t work for you, leave me a comment down below or join our forum discussion. Thanks everyone!

For more information:


Some great articles from Friendship Circle’s blog about things to prepare:


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