Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Traveling with a Child Who Has Special Needs

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Traveling with a Child Who Has Special Needs

Article excerpt

We all want to have a smooth trip, so before we travel, we seek advice. But when contemplating travel with your child who has special needs, keep in mind these observations:

(1) Every child who has a special healthcare need is unique.

(2) You and your doctor are the experts on your child and know what advice "fits."

Here are my answers to seven common questions families ask about traveling. There is little scientific evidence to back up my answers, so they are as much opinion and experience as medical fact.

Q I am concerned about contagious illnesses. What can I do to prevent or reduce the likelihood that my child might catch something?

A There are different viruses circulating in different communities. Unfortunately, that is why we often return from a trip with a cold. A little prevention may not help, but it certainly cannot hurt:

* Wash your hands often.

* Try to avoid crowded, closed-in places.

* Consider having your child wear a disposable respiratory mask when in crowded places, realizing, however, that the child may refuse.

* Consider getting the pneumococcal vaccine and the yearly influenza immunization.

Staying at home does not completely protect your child against viruses, but if after discussion with your doctor, you feel that your child is too vulnerable, trust your judgment.

Q What about traveling with my child's adaptive equipment, such as a wheelchair and fitted seat?

A Call ahead:

* Develop a relationship with a travel agent who is knowledgeable about traveling with adaptive equipment and can advocate for your needs.

* Contact the airline well in advance, and write down the name of the person you speak to. Make sure to re-confirm all arrangements 48 hours before the trip.

* If you can afford it, arrange for crating and loading the wheelchair gingerly on and off the plane. NOTE: This process may not go well, and the steering mechanisms on motorized chairs may need calibration after the flight.

* Talk to your travel agent about finding a plane with the most accessible facilities. You can request that an aisle wheelchair be available in-flight.

* Motorized wheelchairs must have "sealed" batteries (call your wheelchair supplier for details).

* Many larger hotels have accessible rooms for people who use wheelchairs.

* If you are eligible for special needs transportation services in your home city, you are also eligible for the same services in any other city that provides it.

Q What supplies should we bring?

A Think it through, step by step:

* Write down all the things you use in a period that is longer than the trip. For instance, if you will be gone a week or two, list the equipment and supplies that you use in a month. You will not bring them all, of course, but the process helps you remember important things.

* Consider bringing the equipment and supplies you use in an emergency.

* When flying, pack medications in a carry-on bag to avoid loss or breakage.

* Parents often ask about sedatives and medications to prevent motion sickness or traveler's diarrhea. Ask your doctor whether these would be useful and safe for your child.

* Make sure you have enough of your child's prescription to last the duration of your trip plus a day or two extra.

* Carry a mobile phone on trips.

* If your child has significant drug allergies or a condition that would be important for emergency personnel to know, consider a Medi-Alert bracelet in the event you are not around and an emergency arises. …

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