The holidays are just barely over, but Spring Break is already coming up fast! Whether you’re planning on relaxing at home or flying off to Disney World, accounting for your child’s sensory sensitivities can feel overwhelming–but, with a little extra thought and careful planning, it can be done! Here are a few things to keep in mind as you plan your week off.
If You’re Going Away
- Don’t stop at online research. Call up the resort, park, or club manager to talk about your child’s specific needs and any available accommodations. (Disney, for example, has a wide variety of services for those with disabilities.)
- Talk to your child about what to expect. Print out maps, brochures, and photos from Google or Yelp and go over them together. Practice waiting in line and develop strategies for dealing with overwhelming situations.
- Try to keep your routine as intact as possible and consider renting a house or Airbnb instead of a hotel room. Having your own space will let you have much more control over meal prep, baths, and sleeping arrangements.
- Think about your child’s triggers and pack accordingly. Helpful items might include noise canceling headphones or earplugs, sunglasses, bar soap (sniff to reset after a bad smell), bath items with pleasant/familiar smells, or a picky eater’s favorite snack.
- Be sure to bring any other special items that help your child relax and recenter–comfy pajamas, pillows, toys, books, etc. Download a favorite movie or a few songs to your phone/tablet and keep it handy in case of a meltdown.
- Use your transition time well. Take the few minutes between events to make sure your child has a bathroom break, a snack, or even just a few deep breaths.
- If you’re driving, make sure to plan your stops along the way. Pack a cooler and eat at rest areas or parks instead of sit-down restaurants. Build in time to let your child run around and burn off excess energy.
- Keep your expectations in check and leave plans open ended whenever possible. Remember, you will have bumps in the road, and your child’s reaction to hiccups and setbacks will reflect your own.
If You’re Staying Home
- Try to keep your routine as intact as possible. If you do need to change up your family’s schedule, talk to your child about how this week will be different than usual.
- Take day trips! Shorter, focused outings are generally cheaper and allow you to maintain more control over meals, timing, etc. Some great ideas for day trips are:
–Museums, aquariums, and planetariums
–Hiking trails, nature centers, and zoos
–Skiing, snowboarding, and water parks
–Concerts and sporting events
- Seek out less trafficked alternatives to popular destinations. Check out the local train or art museums, for example, instead of fighting the crowds at Chicago Children’s Museum.
- Be conscious of when other local schools are on break. Keep in mind that play places and other popular destinations will be much, much busier than usual.
Finally, no matter what your plans are, be sensitive to the fact that everyone’s routine is changing and everyone needs some time to recenter. Build in downtime for each member of the family–yes, even parents–to take a long walk, go for a run, read a book, or listen to music. Taking time to yourself will allow you to be more present, more engaged, and more able to fully enjoy your time together.