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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

Just added to Websites and Resources: NYC Accessibility Guides

If you’re visiting (or live in) NYC, this website has information on everything from luxury wheelchair service to accessible Broadway shows and adaptive sports.

Best Day Snow Registration is Now Open – Limited Spots For A Once In A Lifetime Opportunity!!

We just applied – fingers crossed! If your kids are into the outdoors and/or snow you don’t want to miss this!

Participant registration is open now, sign up ASAP as spots will go quickly!

Read more…

Special Needs and Air Travel

As we enter the holiday season, click here to read an excellent article on traveling by plane with your special needs child. Features include a social story on flying and list of autism-friendly airlines.

Travel Training, More Than Coming and Going (Anna Sheehy)

As James gets older this has become more and more a topic of conversation. How will he get around when he’s 15? 18? 25? Living in the city brings up some especially unique issues – will he ride a bike down Broadway? Take taxis everywhere? Walk? Will he actually be able to navigate the convenient (but dangerous) bus and subway system? Yes, dangerous – but not how you might be thinking. I’m not that worried about James being abducted or mugged, but to me NYC transit seems pretty dangerous for someone who is unable to walk in a straight line, forgets to look both ways, and is often so far off into space that calling his name and shaking him is the only way to bring him back to attention (will somebody be there to do that at his train stop?).

I read this article on YAI’s blog (www.yai.org/blog) and felt compelled to share it with you. It gave me some insight into how travel training works as well as some much needed hope that James’s road to independence might be longer than usual, but that it will eventually lead away from Mom and Dad’s gentle (but deadly serious when necessary) guidance. Maybe even on a subway.

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Travel Training, More Than Coming and Going

  • by Anna Sheehy, L.M.S.W. Coordinator, Education and Training Dept.

YAI’s Day Services Independent Travel Training program is much more than teaching individuals how to access public transportation so they can commute from their homes to a day program.

Being a travel trainer is tough. It’s early mornings, long days riding the crowded public transit system, and it can be so tempting to offer quick solutions to the trainee (which would be counterproductive because the skill of independent travel requires confidence and decision making.)

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But that first time your trainee shows up to program on their own, wow. The pride that they have for themselves, the pride you have for them, the pride that their peers and their staff have for them … there is nothing like it. They glow. THAT is worth the early mornings and long commutes.

I believe in the power of independent travel. I think for a long time I took for granted what having the opportunity to ride crowded subways and wait on street corners for buses, allowed me. Being picked up at my door and taken to work every day sounded like a luxury that I might like to have. But if I think about what traveling independently offers me, it is much more important than a little luxury. I can travel to wherever I want to go, whenever I’d like to and I don’t need to depend on others to get places or do things outside of my home. My right and my ability to travel independently allows me to shop at stores outside of my neighborhood, visit people outside of my home and on my own schedule, consider a variety of opportunities for employment, and opens doors to discover and participate in recreational activities.

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Independent travel is a HUGE component of my independence. Being a part of a program that opens some of these doors to the individuals that we serve, is really wonderful. It’s what our work is all about, right? Promoting the highest level of independence for people.

As an employee of the training department, most of my exposure in the field is working with staff, and giving them the tools to best support the individuals with whom they work. I’m excited about my work on the travel training program, and have appreciated the opportunity to be more directly a part of impacting the lives of some of the individuals that we serve. This work has helped me feel closer to the mission of the agency, and for that I am grateful.

For full article and comments go to http://www.yai.org/blog/2012/june/travel-training-much-more.html?utm_source=email&utm_medium=storytitle&utm_campaign=yainewsletter

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For more information about YAI’s travel training program, go to http://www.yai.org/services/day-services/day-services-individual-travel-training-1.html

Top Ten: We’re Back (Vacation Answers Revealed)!

We’re back after having done our vacation “right,” which is to say we had a blast but are returning sandy, exhausted and a little crispy.  In my Top Ten from last week, everyone in the family contributed while I packed and I told you I’d reveal who said what when we returned (yes, I’m trying to buy a little time upon reentering the real world). So here it is, who said what about vacation and what actually happened.

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Top Ten: Things We’re Looking Forward To On Vacation This Week

1. Time together as a family. Ryan (code for “as much time as humanly possible in the ocean

2. The swimming pools. James (and he really took advantage of them all, too)

3. Raging Waters Waterpark. I’m going on the biggest water slide. Me too. No, I’m going down and screaming. I’m screaming too. Margaret and Adam. Little did I know that I would be the one doing most of the screaming on this day (thank God for the cabana rental). 

4. The beach. What about the beach? Finding some fish and catching them with my net. Fish? Or a crab. Or maybe a shark. Margaret and James. We did catch a little fish and some pieces of crabs (thanks seagulls). No sharks.

5. Hot water (our building has been without for over a week, it’s insane). Me. And the hot water was amazing until I got sunburned.

6. The roller coaster at Morey’s Piers. I’m going on the roller coaster too. No I’m going on it and screaming like this – ahhhhh! No, I’m screaming too. Margaret and Adam. Both went on many rides, nobody did any roller coasters (darn those height restrictions).

7. Delicious boardwalk food. Yum, saltwater taffy. No I meant like junk food. You know, fried dough? Taffy is junk food. No, taffy is candy. James and me. IMO, we did not get enough of either (NO fried dough) because it was too steamy to be on the boardwalk unless headed directly to the ocean or waterpark.

8. Riding on the monster trucks (I’ll give you a hint, this one is not mine). They’re so loud though. They’re cool. James and me. The monster trucks weren’t running yet this season, bummer.

9. I really want to make time for a morning on the family bikes while we can still fit onto one of them. Me. We went for a two hour surrey ride on a bike path adjacent to the ocean – M and A sat up front in baskets and Ryan, James and I pedaled. Even with the heat this was lots of fun and I highly recommend it (Green’s Bike Rentals were very helpful and friendly).

10. Jetskiing. Are you sure – it looks kind of bumpy and wet. Yeah, dad will take me. And me! And me! No, you have to be 10 or more years old. James, me, James, Margaret, Adam. Nobody went – we ran out of time. 

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We did get on the ferris wheel again this year (a 1 arcade game bribe was all it took!) and tried out some new and fun things like the Adventure Maze of mirrors in the Palace of Sweets and the Insect Museum on the boardwalk (the kids got to hold some giant bugs – ewww). Keep an eye out for the full review, which has been dutifully added to my list of To Dos. If there’s one thing I learned on this trip (other than how many extra changes of clothes to bring out each day), it’s that we are a family who definitely knows how to do the beach!

This Friday, May 18th: Summer Camps, Activities and Social Groups for Special Needs Families

The last meeting of The Foorce is scheduled for May 18th, 2012 at 9:00AM and will be held at PS 163 (corner of W. 97th and Amsterdam) in the library.

The meeting will be all about special needs summer activities and camps – I’ve collected more than a few handouts over the last couple months of camp fairs and conferences and I’m looking to share. Attendees will be given a Spring/Summer edition of the new Special Parent magazine, receive a multi-page booklet with local summer activities and also have the opportunity to find out about and sign up for the casual, free social group that has met weekly for the last 3 summers. It’s a great social outlet if your child isn’t booked up for the summer (we have committed to zilch so far, yikes!).

If that isn’t enough, you will have the opportunity to sign up for the fast-approaching Central Park Challenge (June 2nd) and even to find out about Fall activities like soccer, whose registration is open right now!

Anyone and everyone with a special needs friend or loved one is invited to join us so please help to spread the word. The meeting will run from 9:00am until everyone leaves and small children are welcome (I’m bringing 2!).

Hope to see you there this Friday!

Top Ten: Things To Consider When Planning A Trip To Woodloch Resort With Small or Special Needs Children

We went to Woodloch for the first time a couple of months ago to find a little bit of Winter (since there had been pretty much none in NYC). We only stayed for a weekend but true to our style we managed to squeeze in everything humanly possible in a little over 48 hours. Though located only 2 hours away from the city (Northeast PA) this all-inclusive family resort makes it seem as though you have entered another world, and being set on over 1,000 acres it’s easy to see why.

Being the phenomenal (some would argue obsessive) planner that I am, and seeing how little vacation time we actually get in this family, you can rest assured that I looked at Woodloch long and hard before deciding where to spend a rare weekend away. So instead of telling you how much you will love it here or whether or not your special needs child or picky toddler is going to give you an unforgettable weekend (in the good way) I will share with you the Top Ten: Things To Consider When Planning A Trip To Woodloch Family Resort With Small or Special Needs Children and let you decide for yourself.

1. Food: Included with the price of our stay was dinner the first night, 3 meals the following day and 2 meals on Sunday. Additional food was available for purchase throughout the resort at a reasonable price. Once we were seated at dinner the first evening, we met our waitress, who would be with us for the entire weekend. She was incredibly friendly and accommodating and went to great lengths to please all kinds of appetites. We liked that the seating was private for the group you were traveling with – we had a table for 4 with a highchair but observed tables for 2, 3 and even 12 people around us. That being said, the formal seating for each meal was not ideal. We would have preferred a buffet option for breakfast and lunch so that we didn’t have to spend quite so much time each day devoted to eating (there were quicker options around the resort but they cost extra). This may have been more of an issue for us because dining with antsy toddlers is no vacation – during many meals, one or more children were trying to escape to the activities, lying on the floor exhausted or whining about being hungry before the food even arrived. Also, we would have enjoyed an earlier option for dinner, some kind of seating before 6, so that we had a little more time in between dinner and children’s bedtimes. The quality and quantity of the food was very good and dishes could be substituted to accommodate picky appetites or other dietary needs.

2. Activities: Plenty of variety and labeled by age group, which was uniquely helpful since we were traveling with a broad range of ages. Some of the activities we tried cost a little extra but were well worth it because of the “uniqueness” factor. At one point Ryan took James snowmobiling through the snowy woods – come on, who doesn’t think that’s worth a few extra bucks?

The pool area included a large pool, toddler pool and water play area filled with deliciously warm water, plus 2 jacuzzis within view of the pool. There were locker rooms to put our stuff (important if your room was not connected to the pool building), a bar and snack area, and a sauna. The pool was definitely one of the favorites, if not the favorite activity of everyone in the family. Other highlights of the weekend included snow tubing (our 2 yr old was able to go alone and our 1 yr old in our tube), the indoor toddler gym, the arcade and the go cart track.

Less successful activities for us were the bumper cars, which were small, noisy and had a long line all weekend (though the toddler-sized ones were neat) and the rifle range, which involved James sitting in the car sobbing after first listen. There seem to be a ton of amazing lake and outdoor activities available during the warmer months – we definitely plan to visit at some point in the future to try those out.

 

3. Lodging: We stayed in a room set kitty-corner to the main lodge (Classic Timberline), which was very convenient to food, the lake and snow tubing. Because the Timberline rooms were not in the main lodge they were also very quiet. There was a small refrigerator and a separate sink from the bathroom/shower. The room was quite large with two queen sized beds and two day beds – the 5 of us had plenty of space when inside the room (though we didn’t spend much time there aside from sleeping). Decor was rustic but upscale. There were needle disposals installed in the bathroom (as well as throughout the resort), which seemed a little odd but would have been very handy had one of us been diabetic. One concern: Our room had heating units along the baseboards, which during our cold stay were quite hot. We definitely kept an extra eye on the babies around them.

 

4. Entertainment: We did not attempt to see any of the nightly entertainment (though other guests seemed to enjoy it) because we decided to do other things during that time, but you could choose to attend or watch from your TV in your room, which I thought was a nice option to have since there was a minimum age for some of the shows.

The life-size characters waiting outside the dining room before lunch and the mardi gras parade during dinner on Saturday night were a big hit with our kids (and us, because they were entertained).

5. Accessibility: The entire resort is wheelchair accessible though many of the activities are spaced some distance apart. I don’t know if you would want to push or wheel a chair to some of the farther away activities, especially during cold weather. There is a free shuttle that circles the resort, but I’m not sure if it’s accessible – definitely worth checking into before booking your trip.

6. Schedule: Summed up in a nutshell: 10, 2 or 4. There was quite a variety of activities available and the pool, arcade and indoor toddler gym were open during a wide range of hours. The main blocks of organized activities, games and events started each day at 10AM, 2 or 4PM. The activities were clearly labeled by recommended age which was very helpful. The problem was that if we went to one activity at 10:00 there was usually not another until 2, so if two kids (or adults) wanted to do an activity before 2PM we would all have to split up to find age-appropriate activities, which kind of defeated “taking a vacation for time together.” We would have enjoyed taking the younger kids to a 10:00AM activity and having an 11:00 or 11:30 choice for us or James so that we could have all stuck together a little bit more.

7. Value: We went on a very economical weekend and feel that we got a good value for our time there. I believe it was around $368 per person for the weekend stay, including all meals. Kids under 3 were free and 3-12 were around $180. However, for peak and holiday periods the price can be more than double that, per person, for a single weekend. My suggestion would be to shop the specials online for your first visit so that you can get a feel for what you would be willing to pay in the future.

8. Customer Service: Everyone we came into contact with was attentive and friendly, particularly our waitress. Relatives of the original resort founders were often seen wandering around chatting with guests which was a nice, personal touch. Private babysitting was offered for a fee – if we had been staying longer we may have tried this out in order to catch a show.

9. Layout: So I’ve already told you that Woodloch is a large, beautiful resort. Unless it’s 9PM, dark and freezing, and you need to get from the indoor pool to your Classic Timberline room. Then it involved a “longish,” frigid walk. There are shuttles every 15 minutes and there is some parking if you want to drive, but the resort is big enough to make for some uncomfortable walks depending on the age of your children and the weather.

10. Tips (My own, not the money kind – though we did tip our lovely waitress after her undying patience with our brood all weekend):

a) Go to the water activities after dinner when every one else is going to the shows – the pools and splash area will be deserted. And even more awesome.

b) Read the fine print after making your reservation – bring some dress clothes that are necessary for your Saturday evening meal so you’re not left scrambling, like we were.

c) If you don’t like to spend a long time on all of your meals, perhaps you might bring some yogurts, juices or breakfast foods with you? There was a fridge in the room and we may have done muffins and yogurts in the mornings had we known.

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Though the whole weekend was enjoyable, the icing on the cake for us was waking up Saturday morning to 8 inches of fresh snow, which ended up being the only real snow we saw all season. Opening the curtains to a snow-covered forest wonderland was magical for all of us that first morning, and even though they make their own snow for tubing there is nothing quite like a fresh blanket of snow to bring out the kid in all of us (especially my husband).

Would we go back? You bet! The kids were all sad to leave and we are anxious to see the resort during the warm months when that gorgeous lake is open for water activities (and when the walk back from the pool isn’t quite so chilly). I encourage you to visit http://www.woodloch.com to find out more about vacation possibilities. They have some great Last Minute packages being offered online through May 13th, with even more deals to be found before June 29th (Mother’s and Father’s Day specials plus a Star Wars special next weekend!) and in the Fall.