En Route Meltdowns
Welcome to our third installment of Traveling with Special Needs Handling Enroute Meltdowns
This is one of the sections where I have the least amount of tips and tricks to offer! Luckily, traveling with Mr D was always a breeze, as long as he had snacks and a movie and/or his music. Since we always drove to our destinations, it was an easy fix.
So, I will give you a simple ‘hack’ we learned as a military family with car traveling. In the military, your vacation or ‘leave’ started at midnight. There was a mentality that you didn’t want to miss a single second of that precious time, so we always left at exactly midnight. Or more accurately a few minutes afterward. The few minutes it took my husband to go to the office, sign out, and get back home. The car would be packed and the kids would be in their jammies and in the car ready and waiting.
So, driving through the night to our destination always meant by the time we got to our destination (usually grandma’s house) the kids were up and ready to eat! I would sleep as Dad drove and then I would be fresh for the kids when we arrived and Dad could take a nap when we arrived.
Flash forward to when those kids were grown and we had two younger kids, one with Special Needs. We basically employed the same strategy for our trips to Disney and Universal. Pack the car the night before, go to bed early, get up at 3 am, load the kids in the car (still sleeping), and start towards Orlando. We would arrive in Ocala at 9 am, just as the two littles would wake up and it was time for breakfast. Cracker Barrel was a great place to change out of Jammies and into Disney-appropriate clothes and recharge with breakfast!
If we needed to refill the gas tanks, Sam’s Club was across the street, then we headed back on the interstate. From here we had 90 minutes until Disney. Just enough time for a movie! Pop a movie in the DVD player and before it was over we were pulling into our resort!
A few other tips for long car trips would be Disney coloring books. But instead of crayons (which MELT - even in winter!) use colored pencils or washable markers. We used small pencil boxes that were easily found during the back-to-school sales at Walmart or Dollar stores (I always kept a full supply of them ready!) to keep the markers or pencils in. We also had a few handheld game systems that the kids kept in the car for long trips. These didn’t get used much for my two.
If we were planning a trip during the day (like when we returned home) we made sure to have lots of healthy snacks, with a limited amount of unhealthy snacks.
As the kids got older, I made them cute little travel journals. So they could document their travels. While I thought it was a good idea, my kids were completely uninterested in it! Sigh.
For Mr D, always had some sort of handheld gaming system attached to him. His accident left him paralyzed on his dominant side, left, so we used these nifty DS games to strengthen his left side. While they did their job, they were a trap! He is now addicted to gaming! So BEWARE!
So, let’s talk about how to handle the actual meltdown that occurs while you are en route. Those that, despite your best efforts to head off, happen no matter what. Those ones that you can’t really predict, or plan for.
How do you handle them at home? If you were driving home from the grocery store and your Special Needs child had a meltdown, how do you handle it? Do you pull over and wait for it to subside? Do you speak calmly to them? Do you have a special toy, blanket, or other item that helps them get through it? Do you just ignore it?
If you are in a store at home and they have a meltdown, what do you do? If you are in a restaurant at home, what do you do?
Basically, you handle it on the road the same way you would at home.
If my son had a meltdown coming home from the grocery store, depending on whether he was hurting himself, I would either talk calmly to him or pull over. That is exactly what I would do if we were on the interstate going to Disney. If we were in a restaurant and he had a meltdown at home, I would handle the situation similarly. More than once, I’ve taken my son out of a Disney restaurant and sat with him in a basket hold until he calmed down, while my daughter and husband continued eating. Afterward, we rejoined them like nothing had happened.
Because nothing had really happened except life!
Next Installment: Navigating Through Theme Parks
Most of the content is written by people at JMorris Travel. Every once in a while we will have a guest blogger, usually it is part of our 'family'.Always with a nod to Family Travel!