Over the years my husband and I have prioritized traveling with our children. We have both felt that knowing how to get through airports and navigating new places are important life skills.
While taking our kiddos to new places we have discovered that our oldest truly benefits from being stretched a little each time. Over the years Mr. L has been willing to try new foods, completed his potty training and exploded in his vocabulary over different vacations.
I know a lot of special needs families are afraid to take their families out of their prized routines. But with some planning, and some forethought our adventures have been highly successful.
This past summer I drove my kids by myself across the United States and before starting our trek back, my grandma asked me, “Do you ever feel anxiety before starting such a long drive with your kids?” and I answered her honestly, “For myself or the driving? No. My anxiety flares when trying to make sure I’m not forgetting anything the kids might need.”
There is a balance I am constantly looking for when trying to think ahead of all the things my kids (especially Mr. L) might need, but also trying to bring the least amount of stuff. I don’t want to pack everything and the kitchen sink! I want to keep my hands free as much as possible, but I need to avoid kid anxiety attacks and meltdowns too.
Things I have recently asked myself, do I need to bring more then one set of headphones? How many bandaids? Which size aquaphor? Which stuffed animal is the current favorite? Will Mr. L needs tums? But the biggest pre planning I do before any trip is a personalized travel social story.
These social stories have changed over the years based on what Mr. L is most concerned about. Early on these stories included pictures of what would be packed, so Mr. L would know his important things wouldn’t be left behind. Then we went through a phase where I needed to google what each place’s bathroom was going to look like; airports, airplanes, restaurants, hotels, etc.
However, we just got back from Disneyland this weekend and Mr. L’s travel social story didn’t have a single bathroom picture in it. He wanted to know how we were going to get places, so it had pictures of what the airplane looked like- including his seat, our van, etc. This homemade planner also had pics of who we would see and where we would go.
I’m just so proud of all of my kid’s progress over the years. I didn’t have to pack a single diaper, chewy, and I only needed one travel size package of wipes. It was really nice.
Remember how I said each trip Mr. L reaches a new milestone? Well one of his biggest ones on this most recent trip involved a water closet. While on an airplane, Mr. L actually asked on his own if he could use the restroom and he did it all by himself. I did sneak back to the back of the plane to make sure he had locked the door, and pridefully I can say he did.
This progress is amazing if you had seen through the years how Mr. L has needed m&m’s, travel step stools, tums, headphones. How I used to have to walk him backwards towards a public toilet, how I’ve held his terrified face in my hands and his shaking hands in my own. I no longer have to repeat calming mantras and I don’t have to reassure with big hugs. In fact this 10 year old demands privacy, washes his hands and flushes without reminders, and I might have grinned just a little too big when he nonchalantly came back down the isle to his seat and sat back down like he’d been traveling like a pro all his life.
My next post I’ll share how Mr. L performed in front of a cheering crowd at Disney’s California Adventure 😉😄