Every once in a while, a blog post about the special needs community makes the rounds and goes viral, and all the special needs moms out there read it, nod and say to themselves “I know.” There’s one going around right now, and quite honestly I don’t agree with it. It speaks to all the things “I would have done” if only I didn’t have to parent a child with special needs or if my child with special needs didn’t have other commitments. I know I often speak of the initial advice we got from our geneticist about trying to live as normal a life as possible. I am so glad that she told me that, and that I listened!
How to be a Staycation Rock Star and have the best Staycation ever!
Force yourself to step out of your comfort zone
There are many times when I make arrangements to do things and I actually have to pause, take a deep breath and say “I can do this.” (our day trip to Atlantic City comes to mind!) Some of these activities involve driving into a big and busy city and taking my child with special needs on a commuter train. Yes, I am apprehensive but the sense of accomplishment afterwards is amazing! Face your fears and make a personal commitment to “just do it.” Five+ years ago when we got K’s diagnosis, it felt like we were doomed and would never have any fun. Now I am proud and amazed at all the local places he has been–he has experienced more than many typical kids. Yes, sometimes I do think “it would just be easier to stay home” but that sense of accomplishment-when I think of how awesome I felt driving home from the Atlantic City airshow, and yes, it was hot, I was tired, but it was a great day and I am so glad we did it.
Plan, predict, prepare and prevent
Read as much as you can online. Talk to friends and anyone else. Ask questions on Facebook. Check menus, check blogs, find out as much as you can so that you can make the most of the planned outing. Knowing what to expect is half the battle and one of the reasons I review (on this blog) almost every place we visit–to give other parents more information.
See also: 15 Fun Farms to visit in PA and DE
Consider getting annual memberships
This idea took some time for me to warm up to. The Philadelphia Zoo was the first membership we ever purchased and I was leery of doing so. I didn’t foresee me wanting to visit the zoo and only the zoo for a whole year. Now I am so glad we did and since then we have had memberships to not only the zoo, but Sesame Place, Longwood Gardens, the Helicopter Museum, the Please Touch Museum and more. With a membership you usually only have to visit twice to get your money’s worth, and I make it a goal to visit quarterly. We can go on off days, make the most of school in-service days, get discounts on food and gift shops and I don’t feel obligated to “do it all” in one day. If someone has a meltdown, we cut our losses for that day and go home. Because with a membership, I can always come back.
Use your child’s educational travel days
Chances are you child has an allotment of educational travel days for each school year. Especially if your child is frequently sick, I’m of the opinion that you deserve to have some fun days off too. Fun and educational are not separate entities. And if you go mid-week, there are fewer crowds so you can enjoy that venue more. We tried the PA Farm Show on a weekend–it’s insane! We just can’t visit it unless we go mid-week. Here is a reminder of some of the phrases and ideas you can use for your child’s educational travel form to fill out.
- Applying already acquired skills across all environments
- Speech-mimicking sounds, trying new vocalizations in pronouncing new words
- Literacy-reading program brochures, flyers, maps, signs, as appropriate
- Math-as appropriate-money involved, counting, matching
- Sensory & Textures-touching new things, tasting new things
- Joint attention-viewing things or exhibits together
- Social skills-waiting in line, waiting your turn, respecting personal space of others
- PT-walking across uneven surfaces, inclines & declines, stairs, increasing endurance, playgrounds
- OT-fine motor can be done just about anywhere, many places have fun activities for kids
Visit the big, popular places but don’t forget the little, offbeat ones too!
Here is a list of some of the local places we’ve been within the past few years. What makes it fun is that the little, offbeat places can be just as interesting and the huge tourist attractions. When you stay local, you can visit them all. Don’t forget fairs, festivals and special events–they can be a great way to be introduced to new things.
- Longwood Gardens
- Sesame Place
- Brandywine Zoo
- Philadelphia Zoo
- Herr’s Potato Chip Factory Tour
- Coverdale Farm in Greenville, DE
- Baily’s Dairy in Pocopson
- Nottingham county park
- Hibernia County Park-special needs fishing derby
- Anson Nixon Park-fishing
- Liberty Bell in Philadelphia
- Smith Kids’ Play Place in Philadelphia
- Milburn Orchards, Cecil County
- Highland Orchards
- Constitution Center
- Please Touch Museum
- Delaware Children’s Museum
- Cinco de Mayo Festival, Kennett Square
- Polish Festival, Wilmington DE
- PA Farm Show, Harrisburg
- Knoebel’s Amusement Park
- Atlantic City Air Show
- Avalon, NJ Sand Castle event
Take advantage of freebies.
Get yourself connected in your local special needs community so that you are aware of events and special days. Especially during months (like Autism Awareness Month) there are lots of great freebies to be had, like free admission. The National Parks even have a program set up so that people with disabilities can get a free lifetime pass.
Have fun and get out there. If I can do this, so can you.
This post was originally published in 2012 but has recently been updated and republished.