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Travelling with children with developmental disabilities

Summer vacations are here and it's the time to plan trips with family and friends. Travelling with children is not easy and comes with a lot of challenges.

Packing their stuff, thinking ahead about their needs, keeping them safe, happy and clean are some added worries for travelling parents.

To travel with children who have disabilities and disorders can become stressful for families. For children with developmental disabilities such as autism, ADHD, Down Syndrome change in routines, new places, crowds can be overwhelming. The children may not feel comfortable while traveling causing stress to themselves and parents.

Sangeeta Kundra Chodhury is a parent of child with autism and has been travelling regularly for many years, she shared her insight with NewzHook.

Times have changed and things are a little better these days when it comes to awareness and acceptance of children with disabilities. Parents should not fear travelling with their children because of their disabilities. The difficulties and bad experiences are a part of life and should not hinder us from having fun with family and children. Sangeeta Kundra Choudhury, Parent with disabled child, SCAN member

Here are a few ideas that can make travelling comfortable.

  1. Don't be afraid of travelling with a child with disability. The anxiety that comes with travelling is natural and should not stop you from making fun plans.

  2. Make the plans beforehand and prepare the children for the exposure by communicating with them. Showing videos about airports, trains, travelling or telling them social stories about travelling are some ideas. Mock practice can also be done to help the child mentally prepare for the new experience.

  3. Do not bother too much about impression on other travelers. Some people are sensitive enough to accept while others may stare or complain about the child's behavior. As a parent you need to ensure the child is safe, happy and treated with dignity.

  4. Avoid getting into arguments with other travelers, it is not worth it and the child may feel bad about the situation. It is advisable to stay calm and take all situations as a learning experience.

  5. Carry things with you that can help the children feel less anxious. Favourite toys, blankets, coloring stuff, noise cancelling headphones, books, food, should be kept handy for use in case of an anxiety attack.

Children can learn a lot from travelling and it helps them learn about their environment. The exposure can also be a boost to their confidence and self-esteem.

If you are traveling by air, you can also seek assistance from the airline by informing them about the needs of the child before travelling. Not all airlines in India are currently offering the facility but few of them are, such as SpiceJet.

Passengers can inform the airline about specific requirements that they may have during the travel.

"I have been traveling with my autistic son since he was 2 year old. Initially it was tough, still, by preparing him say a month before, his tantrums became manageable. I need to assure him that things are fine and talk to him in a nice way and get the eatables he want to keep him happy. Every year I do travel. I am able to do that because I love seeing new places. I give myself an extra push for this, says Poorna Balaji, Parent with disabled child, SCAN member.

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