One Ordinary Family on an Extraordinary Adventure

Travel and the Special Needs Child

Travel and special needs child

It is no secret that we think travel is an amazing way to learn about our world. With a large family, making travel happen can be challenging at times. Those challenges can be amplified when traveling with a child with special needs.

Love riding in the backpack with Dad.

Love riding in the backpack with Dad.

We have been blessed with a son with Down syndrome. Technically, that means he is a person with “special needs,” although it seem to us that the only adaptation we’ve made to traveling is that we bring a stroller with us whenever we travel, but then again, that’s kind of par for the course when traveling with a young child. He is just about to turn 2, though, an age at which most children are toddling about, and our little guy will require a stroller or backpack for a while longer as he is not yet walking.

With Dominic along, one thing we find is that we get positive reactions wherever we go. We’ve traveled with a baby in tow for many years (though never for such an extended time as we are now), but we’ve never had the response that we’ve had with this sweet boy. His infectious smiles and sweet demeanor lead to conversations with perfect strangers that we might not otherwise have had, and that is a wonderful part of our travel experience.

Being part of the stroller brigade means that lately we had a small taste of what it is like to travel with someone who can’t take the stairs. At the US Capitol, we went on a tour and had to separate to get from one area to another. Since the elevators weren’t big enough for our whole family plus the others with strollers and wheelchairs, the tour guide instructed us to separate. I pushed the baby while Brian took the other children. I think it was the first time in our travel experience that we have separated so often, and I didn’t like it. Using an FM system, I had headphones that channeled the guide’s voice into my ears, but with the distance, I often lost track of him in those times when we were going up. The core group of us who were using the elevator–mostly people in wheelchairs–worked together to figure out where to go. It caused a wee bit of anxiety here and there, even knowing that I had a phone and could call Brian to come find me if necessary.

Enjoying the view in Washington DC

Enjoying the view in Washington DC

Our experience got me to thinking about some adaptations that people make daily just to get around. I understand–we can’t completely rework the Capitol and other historic venues to make things as easily accessible as newer buildings are. I was happy to see so many people making the effort to go and see these landmarks even in spite of the small inconveniences we had to experience getting up and down and all around.

I’d like to tell you some in depth travel secret that goes along with having a child who the world sees with different eyes, but I have none. He’s just a kid. I’ve followed a few other blogs about families who have more to share. Going Anyway is about “five children, a wheelchair, and a serious case of wanderlust.” They haven’t posted in a while, but there is a good dose of inspiration on their blog.

Then there is the Inion family. They were recently named the People’s Choice Traveler of the Year. They balance international travel, a large family, and a few kids with special needs, and they make it all look easy.

There are challenges in life whatever our situation. Don’t let any challenges you may face interfere with your dreams.

Learning Across America

Learning Across America

Rose Godfrey is a speech pathologist and freelance writer. The Godfrey family (Brian, Rose, and the 7 kids who are still at home) crossed the USA in an RV then set out to see the world.
Learning Across America

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