An illustrated family-vacation planning and resource guide for parents of children with physical, developmental and mental disabilities.
Any family vacation requires some thought, but when children have disabilities—such as blindness, deafness, cerebral palsy, autism or ADHD—parents face additional challenges. In their debut work, Jones and Keiper, both special education teachers, present insights gleaned from their teaching experience and as co-founders of Starry Night Travel, a travel agency for parents with special needs children. Good planning is key, a process they’ve broken down into the five D’s: Dream, imagine the kind of trip desired; Determine, figure out what special provisions will be needed; Dry Run, practice potentially difficult situations; Departure, draft a timeline and checklist; and Destination, list last-minute details, tips and reminders. The authors continually stress safety, and vignettes, tips, exercises and worksheets round out the book. Some of this advice is common sense for any traveler: “[C]ruises up the Alaskan coast are most popular during summer months,” but most is directly, thoughtfully targeted to disabled children’s needs, such as how to help a child with ADHD withstand long waits or an autistic child deal with changes in routine. If a child can’t snorkel the usual way, “an inflatable raft with a window is the way to go.” Or, for blind children: “Create an accessible map of the travel plan…by gluing string on a map outlining the route.” A good tip for children on the autism spectrum is the Autism Theatre Initiative, which presents Broadway shows in autism-friendly environments; spectrum kids and their parents can also benefit greatly from the book’s discussion of using stories to alleviate anxiety. The authors offer strategies for various common scenarios, such as making a picture scrapbook ahead of time for anxious children meeting unfamiliar relatives or, if safety is a concern, making a “Pick the Safe Picture” book for children to identify rule-following behavior. Kids should know what to expect and what’s expected of them. Practical, doable and backed by evidence-based research, the guidelines and tips offered here make an excellent resource.
An extremely useful, well-organized guide to planning a successful family vacation with special needs children.