Creating Your Sensory Travel Toolkit
By: Nicole Thibault, Magical Storybook Travels
Traveling with any child can be a challenging experience, but traveling with a child that has Sensory Processing Disorder or Autism can be especially trying for parents. Children with Sensory Processing issues can be overly-sensitive to sights, sounds, textures, flavors, smells and other sensory input. While parents can regulate the sensory inputs at home and in their daily routines, the sights, sounds and smells while on vacation can be daunting for a child with Sensory Processing issues and can cause major meltdowns. Our family goes on several trips per year, and my sons with Sensory Processing issues sometimes need assistance with the sensory overload that can occur in the airport/airplane, hotels, theme parks and other places.
Fireworks have always been an issue for my Little Guy. We tried for several years to power through the fireworks displays, and have eventually given up and avoid them all together. He just covers his ears, shuts his eyes, and tried to block everything out.
To alleviate the fireworks problem, and other sensory processing issues while on vacation, I created what I call my SPD Travel Toolkit, loaded with thing we can use to assist our boys with sensory regulation on our travel days.
What’s in our SPD Travel Toolkit?
- Fidget toys (spinners and cubes), small bag of Legos, Silly Putty (or Thera-putty), small cans of Play Doh
- Sunglasses or a wide-brimmed hat: for light sensitivity on those sunny vacation days
- Gum, chewy snacks, or chew toys: for oral input
- Noise-cancelling headphones: to block out or lessen the sounds of fireworks, loud music, or the many sounds that can bombard a child with SPD
- Scented lip balm: to sniff when unfamiliar smells assault the nose (we like Vanilla, Cake Batter, or Strawberry scented lip balm)
We put everything in our toolkit into a large backpack, and the toolkit itself becomes a tool. Kids with SPD and Autism can benefit from “Hard Work” or tasks that involves heavy resistance and input to the muscles and joints. Carrying around a heavy backpack can be considered Heavy Work, and can assist a child with improving attention and body awareness, as well as decrease anxiety.
Carrying these tools can help parent alleviate the stress of travel for their son or daughter. Having the right tools can lessen sensory meltdowns, and can make room for more fun and happy memories to be made while on your family vacations.