Welcome to Irisada‘s blog. We focus on solutions and awareness for families living with differently-abled loved ones so they can live life to the fullest.
The summer vacations are upon us and many families will be travelling. Taking planes – or trains and cars – with kids is always exhausting. But if your kids happen to have heightened sensory needs, it might feel impossible. So we dug up some tips and handy accessories to help you. Some of these things might even be useful for your neuro-typical kids too. After all, even rational, sensible adults can get overwhelmed in an airport or a long-distance flight.
Tip 1: Factor in Rest and Extra Time
Sometimes when travelling, we want to get it all over as soon as possible. How many of us book absurdly early flights and tell ourselves we’ll sleep on the flight or deal with the added fatigue? Be kind to yourself. If you know each trip is going to be difficult for you and your child, factor this in.
Try to choose flight times that fit into your daily schedule. Make sure your child has had time to nap the days preceding the flight. And keep a few days to relax and rest after the flight. You don’t need to head straight out on adventures before your little one has had time to regain their bearings in their new environment.
Tip 2: Prepare them by Visualising the Trip
Many children get over-excited, stressed or stimulated in environments they are not familiar with. Why not walk your child through the experience the day before heading out to the airport? You could use online images to explain what an airport looks like, all the stages you’ll have to go through and what the final destination will be.
The more your child understand why each step is necessary, the better their coping skills. Many parents just use search engines to find images, but some airports have special programs to allow kids to discover an airport before actually flying.
Tip 3: Noise Cancelling Headphones
If your child is sensitive to noise, you’ll probably want to bring along noise cancelling headphones. Other kids might also feel better with them on: they won’t get stressed out by all the hubbub and announcements and chances are they will sleep more on the flight.
If you’re looking for a pair, we have two different sets, the Califone’s traditional red noise-cancelling headphones, and their cute animal headphones.
Tip 4: Bring All Your Calming Gear and Habits
Helping your child find his or her bearings will help keep them calm. If your child is soothed by heavy objects, pack one into your carry-on. A heavy book might be enough, or a weighted blanket might do the trick. Other kids enjoy vibrating objects or pillows. You might want to look into something like the Senseez pillows, like these cute, plush, vibrating pillows.
Don’t forget to use good old fashioned hugs, hand presses and joint compressions. Small things and physical contact can help reassure your child while passing on your calm energy.
Tip 5: Find Ways to Keep Them Active
It might not feel like there are many opportunities to keep kids active in an airport setting, but simple games can do the trick. Once you’ve passed security, you can play games in the seating area. Count how many times your child can stand up and sit down in one minute. Count the cracks and the lines on the floor. Keep repeating these kinds of games until you’ve had enough.
Also, take as many stairs as you can. The more you move, the more your child will be tired and occupied. This varies for each child of course, but many children get fidgety in airport settings.
Speaking of fidgeting, if you bring along your fidget toys, your little ones will have their hands occupied. We have quite a few for sale, our favourites are this Tangle Therapy fidget, this multi-side fidget ring and these spikey sensory bracelets. Find whatever works for your kids.
Last but not least in this section: you can, of course, bring along games and colouring books and screens and any type of distraction your child enjoys.
Tip 6: Food and Chewing
If your child has chewing needs or gets peckish (sometimes these are related, sometimes not!), make sure to have food in your carry on luggage. We have cool chewelry and chew sticks you can check out. Most kids, even those without specific sensory needs, love a lollypop or a sweet during take-off and it’s a good way to relieve ear pressure. Some prefer chewing gum, which is another alternative.
Tip 7: Try to Enjoy Your Flight Too
Don’t forget to also take care of yourself. Many kids mimic or mirror their parents because they empathise with adults around them. Remember, you can’t plan for everything and try to make the most of your vacations.
We hope these tips will help. Don’t foget to comment below with additional ideas and experience.