SPD kids can struggle with travelling. Our family has a created a great checklist for planning that road trip, meeting the sensory challenges, and avoiding a lot of pitfalls along the way. Plan for the 8 senses. 8 Senses, you say? YES! There are 8 Senses. You can learn all about them in a great children’s book called “This is Gabriel Making Sense of School”, by Hartley Steiner. Remember with SPD kids, we plan to FILL UP and EMPTY their sensory “buckets”. For each of the items below, you will see a “filling up” activity as well as an “emptying” article to pack or to do/incorporate along the way. Utilizing these strategies will make travelling a successful and enjoyable experience for the whole family.
1. Hearing: DVD’s, CD’s, Earphones – noise muffling or sound cancelling
2. Sight: DVD’s, Sunglasses & possibly Sleep Mask (for eyes)
3. Touch: Special cuddle toy/blanket, mittens, bendy toys, spiky balls, play-dough or wacky-tacky, primary beads (www.melissaanddoug.com) or other (www.nationalautismresources.com), Loose-fitting clothing for Sensory-avoiders and Tight-fitting clothing for sensory-seekers, Baby wipes – to remove any sticky mess along the way. Be careful with air-conditioning in your vehicle. Lots of SPD kids find this quite over-stimulating with a “yucky” feeling on their skin from extreme temperature changes too quickly. Fresh, cool outside air from opening a window is better, if you’re able.
4. Taste: Gum, Chewy Toy (www.nationalautismresources.com), juice boxes
5. Smell: Special cuddle toy – familiar scent, essential oils – roll on (www.youngliving.com) or scratch n’ sniff sticker book (double-check that your child finds the smells appealing first)
6. Vestibular: This means your sense of Balance – what’s going on inside your ears. While in a car, SPD kids can get carsick. Pack anti-nausea medication such as Gravol. Plan for frequent breaks from the vehicle and lot of cool air blowing throughout the vehicle to minimize carsickness.
7. Proprioception: This means what’s going on inside your joints and muscles when you push or pull things. Plan for those potty breaks and exercise breaks. Make use of parks and play areas to get out and stretch. Pack a ball, a skipping rope and a yoga band for pushing and pulling. Encourage your child to climb a slide, to swing on the swings, to spin, to jump and hang from the monkey bars.
8. Interoception: This means what’s going on in your body when you feel hungry, sick or have to use the bathroom. Sometimes SPD kids can “miss their cues”. Again, plan for those frequent breaks and help your child identify body awareness cues. Ask “are you hungry?, are you thirsty? do you need to use the bathroom?” They might not remember to tell you until it’s too late or they’re flat-out of calories RIGHT NOW. Have quick snacks with lots of energy readily-available, plan for those potty stops along the way and things will go much better.