It’s summer. You cannot take the heat anymore and everyone wants to go somewhere. What is a parent of a special needs child to do? Well, chin up buttercup! You can go on a vacation but be sure and get organized first and pack some extra patience…because you may need it!
Before you pull out your suitcase, you need to plan each and every step of your trip. You start with a pen and paper. Where are you going? How will you get there? How long does the trip take? So many questions but you have to be ready … however, you’re never really ready are you?
If you have picked your location and found that the only way to get there is to … gulp … fly….you need have a plethora of items at your immediate disposal to stop that melt down before it starts!
Get a bag, mama. You know your child best and only you know how to distract, amuse, bribe and calm little junior down. You’re going to need a big Mary Poppins-ish bag with puzzles, crayons, dolls, cars, finger foods, puzzles, etc. You be the judge of what your child likes.
Remember, o brave one, children respond and react to tension and stress. Try to remain calm and remember to behave in a manner that will help the flight attendants understand your needs. Don’t expect others to understand how to assist you. You will need to be specific and calm because your little one may sense your stress and begin behaving in a way that will only add to your tension. Inform your travel agent, ticket counter agent, gate agents, flight crew….anyone and everyone that will listen…of your situation and how they might help. Keep in mind that as they may be sympathetic to your family, they might not fully understand their roles in this comedic Broadway production.
Ok, so now you have your tickets. It’s happening. You’re going to fly.
Be sure to have all your necessary travel information printed out and within easy reach. I also carried a copy of Clay’s medical sheet which had all his medical information, doctor’s phone numbers, medications, etc. listed. You might even need a note from your doctor stating that it is safe for him/her to fly. Can you imagine getting all the way through security and having the flight crew suspect that he cannot fly? Sweetie, you’ll need more than a Diet Coke for that…..but that’s another blog post. For now, just stay hydrated with water…but not too much because you do NOT want to leave your child for a visit to the toilet on the plane.
Let’s back up to the security gate. Be sure to inform the TSA officer if you think the child might become upset during the screening process. Then offer suggestions on how best to accomplish the screening the minimize any confusion. If a private screening is required you should always stay with your child during the screening process.
According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), at no time should the Security Officer remove your child from her mobility aid (wheelchair or scooter). You are responsible for removing your child from her equipment at your discretion. Check this out on the TSA website (here).
Be sure you pack some snacks, such as almonds, string cheese, banana or maybe a protein bar for yourself. The last thing you need is a headache from not having eaten before the flight.
Once you arrive at your destination, try to keep your normal bedtime and wake schedule. If you are in a hotel, ask for a room with a small kitchen or at the least a refrigerator, so you can prepare some of your child’s favorite snacks and drinks.
Read your child some Bible stories and remind him that God is always with him, even when he is away from home. Remind him that God will give him and you, my dear, strength for the journey.
1 Peter 5:7, “Give all your worries to Him, because He cares for You.”
Choose peace. Choose joy. Choose to be gentle. If you raise your voice, let it be in praise! If you feel you have failed, remember to seek His grace and accept His forgiveness.
You are the person your child is watching. In fact, he is always watching. When he sees you living and acting with grace, he too will have a sense of peace and calmness only God can give. And yes, I have flown alone with my son. And yes, I have cried on the plane because the stress was almost too much for one person. Certain situations call for certain actions and I did try my very best not to travel alone with him, but sometimes plans can’t be changed.
Our God is good and will watch over you! Safe travels!