The Special Needs Family Vacation
When my good friend Christy Hovey and her husband want to take their children camping, they instead go to their local outdoor store, sit in one of the display tents for a while, and pretend. The employees know them by name and have acknowledged the fact that Christy and her family deserve discounts on merchandise, because they look like they're having so much fun that camping gear just flies off the shelves.
It's not that she doesn't want to experience the real thing. Christy is one of the most ambitious people I've met, and she's up for just about any challenge, but she also has a six-year-old daughter with epilepsy, autism, and sensory processing disorder. She jokes that her local Emergency Room should give her a punch card. Camping is not in the cards right now.
Christy has three other children, too. Her husband is a wounded combat veteran. If any family deserves a vacation (of course, all families do), it's this one. But while the family may need a vacation, the special needs of a child never take a vacation. This makes travel difficult. They need longer time to board, loud noises become major problems, and meltdowns are highly probable. And because Christy's daughter's disabilities are not immediately and outwardly recognizable, she's more likely to suffer scowls from those around her than be offered a helping hand. But there are resources and companies out there which recognize this, and in turn deserve a little recognition themselves.
An online travel website designed specifically for families traveling with special needs children. This is a fantastic starting point for gathering information. They partner with other important organizations like YAI, United Cerebral Palsy, Trips, Inc., Autism on the Seas, and Splore. Use their site to find hotel promotions, travel tips, attraction recommendations, and more.
This airline offers "silent" boarding. Passengers with cognitive disabilities can board well before any other announcements have been made.
Special Needs at Sea is the cruise line's commitment to making sure all passengers are able to enjoy the voyage. This includes providing plastic wheelchairs for the children's waterpark, and the Adventure Ocean camp, which welcomes all children and tailors activities to them based on ability rather than age.
HomeAway’s Co-Founder Carl Shepherd holds a special place in his heart for the special needs community because of his autistic son, Jack. He believes all children are enriched by new experiences, whether it’s a trip to the zoo or a cross-country road trip. Children with special needs are no exception. HomeAway vacation rentals provide a whole house with a quiet atmosphere, extra space, a full kitchen, a washing machine and a bathtub, which are all conducive when traveling with a special needs child.
When Christy and her family travel, they don't ask (nor expect) the world to bend over backward for them. But it is nice to know that there are resources out there which recognize that we all have different circumstances, and a little help along the way is always appreciated.
Click HERE for an excerpt from Christy Hovey's