Home > General, Travel > Taking A Special Needs Child on a Beach Vacation, Part 1: The Boat Shirt and Other “Necessary” Supplies

Taking A Special Needs Child on a Beach Vacation, Part 1: The Boat Shirt and Other “Necessary” Supplies

Noise-canceling headphones and mp3 player

“Boat shirt” (not life jacket)

Medications!!

Plastic spoons and pudding for meds

Extra underwear

Plastic shopping bags

Garfield comic books

This is an excerpt from my not exactly typical beach vacation packing list. But then again, I’m not bringing your typical beach crowd. Sure, we have the towels, beach ball, swimsuits, sunscreen, even a beach tent on the list, but it’s the items above that could make or break the trip. We’d have to turn around without the medicine, and we won’t be able to go on a boat without James’s “boat shirt,” a special lightweight life jacket that in no way resembles a balloon. The headphones will come in handy if we happen upon any fireworks, even from a distance, and the Garfield comic books will be necessary if James is going to sleep by himself. The extra underwear speak for themselves. Don’t ask about the plastic shopping bags.

Let’s move on to the list of James’s phobias that have been taken into consideration while planning a trip to the beach:

Fireworks, or any popping noise in general

life jackets

balloons

getting his ears wet, or basically above the neck

amusement park rides

water with waves in it, like a wave pool or ocean

And we’re going to the beach. Over the holiday weekend. That’s plain crazy, you’re thinking. But it’s true – I have the plans, lists and insomnia to prove it.

I am feeling cautiously optimistic. My husband is downright excited – he turns into a big kid at the word “ocean” and hasn’t spent a full day outside in ages. Despite all of the obstacles mentioned above, we do have one thing going for us: James can easily spend the entire day in the sand. It is one of the places I am able to keep a less watchful eye on him, especially since there is NO fear of him wandering into the water, or even within 50 feet of it. His favorite thing is to lie on his side, kind of like a GQ model, and repeatedly pour sand from a bucket, shovel or his hand – James can spend many hours like this with very few sand toys.

But, not unlike TV, James is kind of a zombie in the sand. He isn’t able to build anything and doesn’t dig a very deep hole, though I think he would like to. So unless you are willing to actively play in the sand with him, after 2 hours it looks as though James has just taken a bath in the dirt. The surrounding sand, however, looks the same as it did when you got there.

I spent some time last weekend watching a lot of other kids at the beach nearby our apartment. They were having water gun fights, swinging on the rings, throwing a frisbee, building forts, playing volleyball. The picnic I made and our medium bag of sand toys seemed tame in comparison. In fact, I spent more time watching other kids take our toys than watching our kids use them.

But as is often the case with me, frustration becomes inspiration. In my very first post I bragged about the awesome vacations I plan for our family. This week should be no exception. In fact, because Ryan was working such intense hours for the last several months, planning this trip became my own “boat shirt.” Every time I would have a long day alone with the kids, I would sit by the computer with a glass of wine that evening and plan something fun we would do once Ryan was on vacation. On particularly late nights I would shop – we have an extra-large beach tent, Wonder Wheel beach cart, water shoes, mesh sand bags, and more activity books than I can count (Ryan worked late quite a bit recently).

I packed bags of sand toys, beach games, books, tents, nets, snacks, movies – anything to capitalize on our days at the beach. I reserved a private cabana at the oceanfront waterpark in case James is too nervous to go on any rides or wants to relax with a book while we splash around. I bought special noise-canceling headphones in case he gets anxious about screaming on the rides or fireworks over the holiday weekend. I got a lightweight life jacket and renamed it a “boat shirt.” That way James can put it on and actually get onto the boat we chartered for parasailing.

I know, parasailing might be a little over the top. But James and I watched a  bunch of videos on youtube and he thought it looked fun. Sold. I found a company that deals with physically challenged riders, who won’t charge us for James unless he decides to go up. Besides, we’ll also need the life jacket for whale and dolphin watching, and for the pontoon boat we rented later in the week.

Unlike the lists above, my goals for James this week are simple and specific (and even realistic!):

1. Dip foot into the ocean. Even a toe.

2. Go down one water slide, even a small kiddie slide.

3. Wear life jacket and board one water vessel.

4. Go back on the ferris wheel.

I’m sure that you are aware of the “post goldmine” you are reading right now. I promise to come back next week with a full report on how it all went, including pictures when possible. In the meantime, have a wonderful first week of summer vacation and I look forward to seeing/meeting many of you at our first meetup next week (see July Excursions and Adventures)!

Jersey Shore, here we come!

To be continued…

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  1. June 28, 2011 at 9:01 am

    Good luck and have fun!

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