Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Holidays :) or :(

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

family eating mealFor parents of kids with special needs, just getting through a routine day is often very challenging. If you throw in changes to routine, you could really be asking for trouble. But, it is springtime, and that means certain holidays are here – Passover and Easter. Are you traveling to visit grandparents or hosting family at your home? Eating new or different foods? Have a surplus of candy and chocolate at your disposal that may have  behavioral or digestive effects on your child? Are there unrefrigerated boiled eggs lying around the house tempting hungry kids? What do these changes mean to your child and are you ready to handle them?

No two kids are alike. Some manage the changes well and even blossom with the unexpected shifts in routine. Other kids have the opposite reaction and find that all these changes in their typical day are stressful and anxiety provoking. If this is the case for your child, here are some tips from parents to help get you through your holidays:

• Have a calendar where you clearly indicate what changes are upcoming (dinner at Aunt Joan’s, going to Church or Temple, wearing the new dress, eating chocolates), etc.

• Plan ahead so that your child knows what is coming next, especially if you are in someone else’s home or in a different town or city.

• Set up a reward system for positive behavior (such as putting a sticker on a chart for desired behaviors (sitting still, listening, etc.).  Every gold star counts! Be sure to let your child know when he has done something good and when he has earned his “prize.” Lots of praise works wonders.

• Only take your child to places you know he can handle. Holidays are not the time to spring unexpected excursions on your child. If you really want to fit in new experiences, don’t cram in too many at once.

• Build in quiet time wherever you are. Take along your child’s comfort toys/items so that he can be soothed as well as possible when away from the comfort of his own home. Often bringing your child’s pillow along can also work wonders.

• Bring along favorite snacks and food. Sometimes just the change in diet will cause constipation and intestinal distress, which will then cause your child to not be at his best. If you can keep his diet somewhat consistent, you are doing everyone a favor.

Remember, when you are stressed or anxious, your child will feel it and react. Be aware of how you are feeling and try to take a moment to assess your situation. Ask yourself – is this the right thing to do for my child and our family?  Then, trust your gut and do what works well. Chances are the result will be a happier child, which always makes for a happier family and a happier holiday.

Got any tips you can share? We’d love to hear from you.

Note:  This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January 2013 and appears every Wednesday. Go to News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” on the Categories menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date (just keep scrolling down). We welcome your comments and input. If you have questions, please send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.com.

Is your preemie ready to fly?

Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

airplane1Even after a premature baby has been discharged from the NICU, she may not be ready to go on an airplane just yet.  Although today all commercial planes have pressurized cabins, believe it or not, the oxygen concentration in the air is not as high as in a typical room at sea level.  For healthy people, that means that we simply need to breathe more deeply or more rapidly to get the same amount of oxygen.  We do this without even thinking about it and our bodies easily make the adjustments needed.

But preemies may be different.  A lot may depend on what your baby’s oxygen saturation levels were while she was in the NICU.  For a baby whose oxygen saturation was measuring close to 100 percent, a plane ride may not be a problem.  But for a baby whose oxygen saturation levels were even a little lower–90-95 percent, for example—the drop in oxygen concentration may be a cause for concern.

Flying on an airplane also increases the chances that your baby may catch a cold or other respiratory tract infection.  Planes carry many people in an enclosed compartment.  And they actually recycle all or part of the air circulating in the cabin.  This has led to a greater transmission of infections among all passengers.  Of course all babies are vulnerable to these illnesses, but preemies are at an increased risk—especially during their first winter.

If you were thinking about taking your preemie on an airplane, make sure you talk to your baby’s health care provider.  Many neonatologists actually advise parents not to take babies on airplanes for several months after leaving the NICU.  Your baby’s health care provider knows her breathing and medical history and is the best person to help you make the decision whether traveling by plane is a good idea.

Vacationing with a special needs child

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

family-on-vacationWhen you have a child with special needs, taking a vacation can be a challenge. Often a child with a delay or disability does not like change of any kind – he may find it particularly upsetting and anxiety producing. So, removing him from his own bed, room and home can be difficult at best. You are going into alien territory…soooo scary! It may make you wonder if going away for a weekend or week is even worth the effort. But, with a little planning ahead of time and a few strategies for the road, it can usually be done successfully.
 
Prepare ahead of time

If you know that your little one dislikes change, it may be necessary to prepare him for what is to come. Whether or not your child can understand verbal language, create a photo that shows your child and all family members at your upcoming destination. You can do this by printing out a photo of the place where you are going, and then putting individual photos of your family on top of it (kind of like playing with paper dolls). Help your child participate with this task so he actively sees himself at the place.  If you have a photo of the room where he will sleep, it may help for him to place himself on the bed. Tell the story of how you are going to put all of his things in a suitcase and go on a happy trip to this new place.

When it comes time to leave, be sure that your little one “helps” you pack his belongings. Start the process several days beforehand and leave the open suitcase in his room on the floor, so that he and you can place special items in it.  Don’t forget the special stuffed animals or dolls, blankets or whatever comfort item your child loves. These will be very important transition items when you arrive at your destination; they will help him to associate “home” with his new surrounding. 

Be sure to pack some of his favorite foods. Don’t assume that you will be able to find the staples that he likes in a new grocery store. Often, brands are different. My daughter used to eat only one brand of American cheese and could taste the difference if I substituted.  By having a supply of consistent foods, you provide stability and comfort.

On the trip

If your child struggles with language (expressive or receptive), does not talk yet, or is non-verbal, you may be familiar with a communication picture book. This is a notebook that contains small photos or images of common items, such as his bottle, pacifier, specific toys, certain foods or snacks, a bath tub, your car, clothes or outfits (for getting dressed), pajamas, his bed or porta-crib, stroller, etc.  You help your baby, toddler or child get through transitions by pointing to the image of what you are about to do. Likewise, you can encourage your little one to point to the item that he needs (eg. he may point to his bottle when he is thirsty).  Going to new places can be especially scary for a special needs child. The more ways to encourage communication, the less frustrated and scared your child will be. 

Often children behave one way at home and another way on the road. If your usual routine is upset, your child may act out. Positive rewards can go a long way in shaping behavior.  But, you need to figure out what “reward” works best for your child. One example is to use a sticker chart (where a star or sticker is placed on a chart for every positive behavior).  Another idea is to bring along a bag of surprises for your child to give as rewards for compliant behavior. For example, if your child is a toddler and has trouble allowing you to dress him, offer a “prize” for getting dressed without tears or tantrums. A tiny new item given as soon as he complies can go a long way in making him feel good about himself and may help you avoid an exhausting tantrum.  (Dollar discount stores are excellent places to stock up on tiny, fun items for this purpose.) If you already have a behavioral system in place, try to keep it going while on vacation. CONSISTENCY is the key.

Where should you go?

Thanks to the internet, you can find almost anything at your fingertips. Here are some suggestions:

   • Here are tons of travel tips, including 32 vacation destinations for families with special needs children, and a review of the best places to go.

   • The Society for Accessible Travel & Hospitality offers tips and resources, including an article on their 10 Golden Rules of Autistic Travel.

   • And here are 101 Things to Do When There’s Nothing to Do -Emergency time-wasters for planes, cars, lines, and waiting rooms.  
 
Bottom line

Traveling with your special needs child may involve a good deal of foresight and coordination, but it may also bring you extra joys.  The up-side is that the stimulation and family togetherness may help your child make developmental strides. My daughter’s language used to soar after a vacation. Her speech therapist encouraged us to take her on weekend jaunts as frequently as possible to help stimulate language development. The extra planning and care necessary to help my daughter with the transition from home to hotel was well worth it.

Have you traveled with your special needs child?  Have any tips you’d like to share?

Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started on January 16, 2013 and appears every Wednesday. Go to News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” on the menu on the right side under “Categories” to view all of the blog posts to date. As always, we welcome your comments and input.

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.com.

Full body scans and pregnancy

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

AIT Frequency GraphicI know a lot of people who are traveling this Thanksgiving. They ask, “Should I get the full body scan or pat down?”  Pregnant women are particularly anxious about the body scan with fears of too much radiation.  According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), advanced imaging technology screening is safe for all passengers, including children, pregnant women, and individuals with medical implants.

The technology used for scanning at the airport (millimeter wave or backscatter technology) is not traditional x-rays. No need to joke about glowing in the dark.  The energy projected by millimeter wave technology is thousands of times less than a cell phone transmission. A single scan using backscatter technology produces exposure equivalent to two minutes of flying on an airplane.  You can find out lots more about how all this works, privacy, frequently asked questions… at the TSA website.

Good night, sleep tight…

Friday, August 20th, 2010

bedbugYou know the rest of it…don’t let the bed bugs bite.  Have you been hearing about these pests as much as I have recently?  For me, that harmless nursery rhyme now has new meaning.   Every time I hear about bedbugs, my whole body squirms.  YUCK!   Bedbugs were actually common in America prior to World War II.  But they were basically eliminated in the industrialized world because of the use of DDT.  But DDT and the use of other strong pesticides has subsequently been banned.  And with the increase in international travel, insecticide resistance, and changes in pest control practices, bedbugs are making an unwelcome comeback in America. 

Bedbugs are reddish brown, flat ovals, about the size of an apple seed.  They may be mistaken for ticks.  They bite and suck blood from humans and got their name because they are most active at night.  They tend to go after exposed skin such as the face, neck, hands, and feet.  Their bites are usually painless and result in small, flat, or raised bumps on the skin.  Sometimes the bites can be red, swollen and itchy and scratching too much can result in infection.  The bites frequently occur in a pattern of three which doctors refer to as “breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”  Believe it or not, there is no evidence that bedbugs can transmit diseases to people and usually their bites require no treatment.  They are more of a nuisance than anything else.

Contrary to popular belief, bedbugs are not a sign of dirtiness.  They don’t care how clean their environment is.  They just want a warm place to hang out with lots of hiding places.   They hide in mattresses, box springs, bed frames, and headboards.   Although definitely more common in urban areas where people live in close quarters, bedbugs are not limited to the city.  And they can be passed from person to person very easily—bedbugs are master hitchhikers.  They can cling to luggage, upholstery, and clothing and get a ride to a brand new location with relative ease.  They can even live for months without feeding so they can be found in vacant homes.

Bedbugs are incredibly difficult to get rid of and professional exterminators typically need to be called.  The best thing you can do is prevent them from entering your home in the first place.  Make sure you check all mattresses and upholstered furniture that enters your home.  And at hotels, make sure you place luggage on tables instead of on the floor.  Also check mattresses and seems for any signs of infestation. 

Hope I didn’t make you squirm too much.