Travel Planning Frustrations
For families with Neurodivergent children, trips may seem out of reach. It is easy to feel overwhelmed by a veritable army of flashing lights, or being drowned out by loud swaths of people. There can be twists and turns at every aspect of travel planning that can ultimately discourage you from even trying. With a compiled list of ideas and suggestions, you can turn that frustration into eager excitement for your next adventure.
Take Your Senses On An Adventure
Maybe you feel like popular destinations, like Orlando, Florida, are just out of the question. You can’t imagine seeing your child struggle with loud venues, rather than enjoying the experience you had hoped to share. Places like Aquatica and Discovery Cove have you covered. Both are conveniently located in Downtown Orlando. A more unique and educational experience, over other venues in the area. We’re looking at you Mickey.
Aquatica has a number of sensory activities for your little ones, listed in a Sensory Guide that you can request at the entrance. Being the first International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards (IBCCES) certified water park, they have made sure that every child has the opportunity to enjoy themselves. They have indoor water areas with rides and slides, and private outdoor beach cabanas for fun in the sun.
Discovery Cove was named the first all-inclusive day resort, and a certified autism center. When you book a visit with them you get a large amount of amenities available to you. Unlimited food and drink with allergy accommodations, to keep you fueled all day long. You’ll need it when you get up-close and personal in a day of snorkeling, with included wet suits and gear. If your kiddo would prefer to stay dry, they also have a large Aviary where you can meet and hand-feed tropical birds from all over the world. All of these activities can be custom tailored around the needs and individual needs of each guest.
My personal favorite would have to be iFly. They are an all-inclusive indoor sky diving experience, for all ages. iFly has an entire STEM program, teaching kids the basics of aerodynamic science before their experience. They set aside specific days for their special needs visitors, if you would prefer a time with less crowds. They are trained to instruct and aid those with both physical, cognitive and neurodivergent challenges. On their website, they even have videos showcasing their establishment and services. All safety gear, and clothing is included in your visit, for the safety of your family. Truly a unique experience to remember. They also have locations in 39 states! Wow!
Education With A Sensory Twist
Maryland: B&O Railroad Museum
In Baltimore there is B&O Railroad Museum. It’s only a modest drive from Ocean City, which also has a great deal of tourist activities. It is an interesting and educational experience if your children love trains. They host “Sensory Sundays” throughout the year for their more sensitive visitors. Like other places B&O Railroad Museum will include lower volume sounds and music, low lighting, private quiet areas, and signage for areas with unexpected sound effects or horns. Sensory-friendly train activities are also scattered about the place for your family to enjoy. “Sensory Kits” can also be found at stations throughout, that include headphones, fidgets and stress relief items. Visitors can experience social stories, and community table areas are also available for group social activities.
Washington, D.C: The National Children’s Museum
Another great place to visit, is The National Children’s Museum in Washington, DC. They have numerous attractions and exhibits that stimulate the senses. There is a wheelchair accessible, 3-story Climb-and-Slide, digital interactive weather “sandbox” room. A hands-on play space of art and technology with a Nickelodeon character theme. Also consider visiting Data Science Alley, a colorful mechanical interactive exhibit that teaches kids about data collection. The exhibits go on. The National Children’s Museum has many other play spaces to stimulate fine and gross motor skills, as well as areas dedicated to hands-on tinkering, engineering and music science.
New York: The Blue Man Group
Everyone knows, or has at least heard of, The Blue Man Group. These silent blue performers have partnered with the Autism Speaks organization in recent years to put on Sensory-Friendly Performances. Not only have they released musical pieces, but also changed our perspective on communication and peer-to-peer connections.
These performances have a reduction in sound and light levels during the show, to be more gentle on the senses. Noise reducing headphones are also available upon request. However, if you know anything about The Blue Man Group, there is no reduction in paint splatter. While that isn’t usually a problem for our kiddos, packing extra clothing would be ideal. Conveniently, The Blue Man Group also perform in Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas, and even Berlin.
We Rock The Spectrum Kids’ Gym
Taking the family to the We Rock the Spectrum Kids’ Gym is a great way to improve balance, muscle tone, and motor skills. This convenient play space gives kids a fun way to get exercise, when you’re away from home. They have suspended equipment, crash mats, and pillows. As well as, zip lines, trampolines, and various other indoor structures. We Rock the Spectrum Kids’ Gym has playgrounds all over the U.S. Click here for even more information regarding We Rock The Spectrum.
Myrtle Beach VIP Pass
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Myrtle Beach is widely known for frequent flier miles redemption – it’s just that good. It ranks in the Top 3 most popular destinations for family vacations by TripAdvisor. It is also the most popular among travelers on the Autism Spectrum because of it’s inclusivity. At the Welcome Center, families can pick up a CAN Card (Champion Autism Network Card). With a CAN Card, families can skip lines at crowded attracts, get private seating or even quicker service at restaurants, and curbside check-in at local hotels. Most businesses here are onboard with this program, for travelers convenience, and trained to accommodate visitors special needs. At restaurants, it informs the establishment that you may leave unexpectedly, or may be bringing outside food for a member of your family.
Another great feature of Myrtle Beach is the venues. Several of them have been designed, or even re-designed, to be autism-friendly environments. A majority of them have been required to keep noise-canceling headphones available for their visitors. Many of the local playgrounds have been engineered with ADA-approved equipment for children that may have special needs. Savannah’s Playground is one such play area to have these installed. Traveler Perks like these, may not be well known, but should be at the fore-front of tourism advertisements.