For many people, summer is a time to escape the house to see friends, explore nature, visit local attractions and travel near and far. Planning these outings is a worthwhile but complex undertaking for any family. But having a child with special needs adds several more considerations to the decision making process. Our family has been fortunate to enjoy several amazing trips this summer including day trips within the state as well as a cross-country road trip. But in years past, we have also declined many invites and opportunities because we felt it was the best choice for our family at that time.
I want to share a little of our experiences both of declining and embarking on adventures because I know the enormous pressure special needs families face when making these decisions. It can seem that there is no “right answer” when the family (and outsiders) wonder if “going” is reckless, “staying” may be overly cautious, and “going with abbreviated plans” leaves many people disappointed. Those outside of the special needs world usually don’t understand what goes into the special needs family’s decision making process, which can lead to misunderstandings or hurt feelings from those impacted by the family’s choice to stay or go. And even from within the special needs community, pressure can mount when special needs families begin to compare or judge each other’s choices about venturing out of the house, state, or country.
I have three objectives for this blog series:
- To say to special needs families: Boldly go. Or boldly stay. Both options require courage, and you alone are equipped and empowered to make the choice. The decision is so unique to your family and circumstance that it really can’t be compared to other’s choices or even evaluated from the outside.
- To share some of what goes into the travel decisions, for special needs families who may want to share this information with others to help ease those misunderstandings
- To share some of our own experiences of traveling and of staying- what worked and what didn’t, the comical moments and the hand wringing ones, and how our decision making is changing over time as we gain experience and as our children get older.
Also, those families who are preparing to “go” sometime soon might be interested in our previous posts on the topic of Travelling with the Medically Complex Kiddo, including a free packing list printable!