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Spring Break Tips for Families of Kids With Disabilities

We are so excited for Spring Break and warm, sunny weather! While we all welcome the chance to spend more time with our families, for children with disabilities, changes in routines can be challenging. Here are some tips and tricks to have a great week:

Routine: Many children with disabilities like having a regular schedule. Being out of school can be disorienting. Stick to your routine as much as possible to help prevent sensory overload and confusion. When planning for Spring Break, consider using the time to engage in therapy intensives or make up therapy sessions that were missed due to illness. And of course, make sure to plan plenty of fun activities that your child enjoys.

Travel: Thinking ahead helps travel go smoothly. Even though trips are exciting, they can also be anxiety- inducing. Be sure to bring tools like weighted blankets, sunglasses, compression vests, sensory chews and ear protectors. Offering sensory breaks to play with fidgets, get up and exercise, find a calm space, or engage in heavy work can also be helpful. Favorite movies and music can pass the time and make travel much more fun! Driving during times of low traffic or at night may also help. Finally, be sure to give a heads up to hosts or guests about your child’s preferences, behaviors and needs.

Food and drinks: Reduce stress by packing familiar foods, drinks and snacks. Many theme parks, beaches and other venues may not have your child’s preferred foods or be able to accommodate specific dietary needs. If a crowded dining area is overstimulating, you can always set up a tailgate picnic, get cozy in your hotel room or find another calm place to eat.

Social stories and visual aids: Social stories help children know what to expect when visiting a new place or enjoying special activities. Visual aids, such as picture schedules, can prepare a child for the day’s events by showing them step by step how the day will unfold.

Vacation home rentals: A private residence, such as an Airbnb, can help give you the comforts of home. These offer a quiet, private space where you can more easily control your environment. Hotel chains such as Embassy Suites, DoubleTree Suites, or Hyatt Houses also offer suites with separate living and sleeping areas, giving you all the space you need to relax.

Springtime activities: Planning an Easter egg hunt or other group activity this spring? Remember to plan an escape route. This may mean parking where you can easily access your car or hanging out on the edge of the crowd so that you can leave, if needed. Sometimes setting up the same activity for your child in their own space (a bit away from other children) can also lead to success.

Health and safety: If your Spring Break calls for a beach trip or a visit to the pool, think about your child’s needs for safe water play. In addition to close supervision, they may require ear tube protection, swim diapers, adaptive swimsuits or flotation devices.

Fun in the sun: Children with sensory disorders can have a tough time regulating their body temperature; they may need extra help keeping cool and remembering to drink fluids. They may also be struggle with applying sunscreen. A couple of tips:

  1. Make it fun: sing a silly song for sunscreen time.
  2. Make it a game: pretend you are going through the sunscreen car wash.
  3. Try spray-based sunscreen: you can even spray on your hand, then apply with the amount of pressure your child prefers.
  4. Use roll-on sunscreen: this is especially helpful for challenging areas like the center of the face and back of the neck.
  5. Try distraction: use favorite toys, videos or apps to get through the application.

Accessible beaches: The City of Virginia Beach provides all terrain wheelchairs for beachgoers with disabilities. You can find them conveniently located in a storage container on 17th, 24th and 26th Streets, at the bottom of the beach ramps. There are also extended wooden walkways at 8th, 16th, 24th, 30th and 36th Streets.

Outdoor trails: Virginia has many outdoor hiking trails that are easier to navigate and/or wheelchair accessible. Learn more at:

Whether you’ll be on the go or staying in town, we hope you’ll find ways to have fun that work for you and your family!

For more information on these tips, contact Vandal Truong, SOAR365’s Director of Youth Services & Adult Day Support at (804) 665-1236 or [email protected].

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