Posts Tagged ‘special needs travel’

Special Needs and Air Travel

November 19, 2012 Leave a comment

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 ( 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.


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.)


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.


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


For more information about YAI’s travel training program, go to

Top Ten: Top Tens (sneak peek edition)

January 17, 2012 2 comments

Spoiler Alert: If you like being surprised by the Top Ten topic each week you probably shouldn’t read this one.

In my very first post ever on The Foorce I confessed to making lists of lists. This was not an exaggeration, and it is with equal measures of shame and enthusiasm that I share my Top Ten Top Tens with you this evening. Some are close to being complete, some are still in progress, but obviously none are finished or I wouldn’t resort to exploiting my list fetish for your entertainment.

Hopefully you’ll be able to look past the weirdness and just feel excited about the awesome Top Tens coming your way!


Top Ten (Upcoming) Top Tens:

1. Vacation Spots For Special Needs Families

2. NYC Restaurants Where You Can Be Comfortable, Even If Your Kid Starts Crying Every Time They Sing Happy Birthday To Another Table

3. Accessible and Amazing Things To See/Eat/Do On Your Trip To NYC

4. Special Needs Friendly Indoor Playspaces

5. Day Trips For Special Needs Families Within 2 Hours of NYC

6. Favorite Snacks and Meals Of My Non-Picky Eater With “Texture Issues” (recipes included!)

7. Accessible But Not Boring NYC Parks

8. Extracurricular Activities for Special Needs Children in NYC

9. Places We Avoid With Our Special Needs Child in NYC (You Might Be Surprised)

10. Board and Card Games, Modified To Be Fun For The Entire Family


Come on, I bet you’re feeling a little excited about my list of lists. Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone.

A Look At What I’ll Mean-To-But-Probably-Will-Not-Have-Enough-Time-To Post In The Week Ahead: 6-20-11

I have so many posts half done or on The To Do List, not to mention the inbox full of great ideas from other people and the survey results that I have been sifting through. Sometimes a to do list is therapeutic but sometimes it’s just kinda mean.

Let’s just cut to the chase before I fall even further behind. Upcoming this week (fingers crossed):

Curious George at CMOM – A look at the exhibit from three points of view – the toddler, the special needs child and the parent who brought them both.

My Children the ABA Therapists – We are the first ones to proclaim the wonders of ABA therapy. So why is it that I cringe every time I walk by a balloon vendor?

Family Beach Vacation with your special needs child ( Part 1 of the How To series)- One week and counting! Every time my husband has worked late and I’ve had a long, hard day with the kids I make myself feel better by preparing for our amazing beach vacation-to-be. Needless to say we are Prepared. Be amazed (or appalled) at my supplies, packing lists and itineraries that anticipate even the most special of special needs, while still leaving room for spontaneity (it’s scheduled in).

How to ignore your special needs child (Uncomfortable Subjects Part 3) – If you think I have a lot to say, then you haven’t walked James home from school. Don’t judge until you’ve been there or read this.

Sneak Peek at Fall speakers 2011-2012 season – I know it seems like a long way off, but you’ll want to make time for next year’s meetings. We already have 6 amazing speakers/programs lined up! And, some of your favorite speakers from this past year are joining forces (I am letting this double “oo” opportunity pass me by out of respect for them) this year for some especially awesome opportunities. I hope I can tell you more about this soon!

Also keep an eye out for info on parenting match-ups (like a dating service for special needs parents), a sibling support group, a free giveaway (in the works) and my review of the Harry Potter exhibit in Times Square. And, I believe that The Foorce will reach 20,000 views this week (since it’s inception in March), unless everyone gets frustrated with my “to post” lists that never get crossed off. Thanks for making me feel important – it’s a good thing I come from such a big family!

It’s the last week of school. Then James will be home and things will really be busy (not like they are now) so I am extra motivated to knock things off of this list. And remember, if you subscribe you will be notified about all of the above posts automatically, and any tangents I go on in the meantime.

Happy Summer’s Eve!

“Paradise” article – worth a read!

May 18, 2011 1 comment

I stumbled across this uplifting and inspirational article. It really puts things into perspective and gives me that rush of hope I sometimes need to stay positive about James’s future. With positive thinking and some elbow grease, anything is possible. Happy Wednesday!

Fun travel opportunities for special needs families and individuals – no, I’m not kidding.

With summer coming I figured a travel section would be helpful to those of you who like to consider all of your options before making any plans. If you are traveling with small children it can narrow those options considerably. Add a special needs family member and the options – wait, what options? All I see in the search results is “not for kids who cry on rides,” “not for kids who are scared of water that has waves in it,” “not for kids who need a bathroom nearby” “not for kids who get carsick, seasick, or motion sick, ” and “okay lady, who are you kidding here?”
All jokes aside, the info below might help make your planning and travel a little easier. There are two sections in this post, one for families traveling with a special needs person and another for individuals with disabilities traveling alone* (ages 8 to adult), though there is certainly some crossover so be sure to read through both.
*This is not a sleepaway camp post – these programs, places and agencies are for vacation travel opportunities.
For families traveling with a SN loved one:
  • Franklyn D. Resort— and sister resort FDR Pebbles— are all-inclusives on the north coast of Jamaica with an outstanding feature: each family has their own vacation nanny during their stay. They offer big discounts when traveling with a special needs child, as well as lots of other great offers. This is at the top of my wish list right now. See my separate blog post about this awesome-looking resort chain!
  • Beaches Resorts — the family brand of the Sandals chain– include several properties in Jamaica and one in Turks & Caicos. They all have kids programs for different ages, nursery, and a host of activities. Nannies are available for kids with special needs: the Beaches’ policy notes that a one-on-one “coordinator/nanny” can be arranged at a charge of $8.00 per hour; the child may participate in regular scheduled activities; and “for extended hours, prices will vary.” Additionally, all Beaches Resorts — except Beaches Boscobel, which is built on a hill– are wheelchair-accessible.

Other places nearby NYC:

We went to Rocking Horse Ranch last Winter and they were very accommodating to James – he even got to go on a horseback riding excursion on his own horse, with a guide staying close by him for the entire 90 minutes. For those of you who don’t know James, he is extremely low tone and ADD, a lethal combination on a horse. We were sure he wouldn’t be able to handle it but the guides were very positive and reassuring, and we felt safe letting James go. I’m so glad we did! I don’t know of any discounts for disabled persons, but RHR is an all-inclusive family retreat and they offer special rates each month including birthday weekends where the birthday person goes completely free. We plan to go again this summer and wholeheartedly recommend trying it out for a weekend.

We have also successfully visited Sesame Place (see my posts on discounts for Sesame Place and Hershey Park). We not only received a substantial discount on admission, but for $199 got a private cabana for 8 with a water-stocked fridge, towels to use and take home, chairs, table, ceiling fan, and exclusive visits from the Sesame characters. Now I know I sound like I am advertising for them, and $199 is not exactly cheap, but it was well worth it for us to have a haven to go back to every time James needed a break. The cabanas were right across from bathrooms and next to a huge water area. Plus there was no standing in line to see the characters and the private space  helped us have a lot less to carry around the park – you need to show a wristband every time you enter or exit the area so we felt safe leaving our stuff behind. If you split the cost with another family it gets much more affordable, and the park often runs a “buy one day-get one day free” admission special.

We have also done trips to the Poconos and a couple of nearby beaches in NJ and MD. If you want to know more just send me an email.

For individuals with disabilities traveling alone:

Exceptional Vacations: “is dedicated to providing high quality vacation opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities and special needs.  We ensure a safe environment with an emphasis on inclusion.  Our trips promote integration, socialization, friendship and fun. Exceptional Vacations’ trips provide a wonderful opportunity for personal growth, normalization, and socialization in a safe and fun atmosphere.  We have a professional staff committed to providing our special needs travelers with the experience of a lifetime.  Our special needs tours are all inclusive.  Vacationers only need to bring the desire for a new and rewarding experience. If one of our supervised tours does not meet your needs, Exceptional Vacations can design a custom travel package for your individual or group travel.  Our experience gives us the expertise to put together wonderful trips for special needs travelers.  Our tours open doors for travelers with disabilities to experience everything the world has to offer. Click here for more info:

Mobility International U.S.A. is an international exchange travel program for people with and without special needs, ages 15 and up. The focus is on leadership development and disability rights training. For more info go to

Outward Bound USA is a year-round program for ages 14 and older. It serves individuals with learning disabilities, visual disabilities, health impairments or those who are hard of hearing. Scholarships are available. Go to for more info.

SOAR is a program for children and teens ages 8-18 with a learning disability or ADD/ADHD. Activities include backpacking, rock climbing, rafting and wildlife studies. Fees range from $1700-3700 per course. Go to

Wilderness Inquiry is a travel and adventure program that brings together people with and without disabilities. Scholarships are available. go to to find out more.

As always, please leave comments if you have other recommendations, experience with any of the above places or agencies, or questions about traveling with special needs.  So now traveling with your special needs loved one will be a breeze. Right?

Tropical vacation for your family, brought to you by your special needs child

March 25, 2011 1 comment

I’m going to brag for a second, so bear with me. Because I am such a planner, we have some awesome family vacations under our belt. Our vacations have gotten better with time as we have adjusted to the needs of bringing two babies and a special needs child with us. Over the last couple of years we have done a beach trip, a week in Amish country, a family resort vacation and a stint in the Poconos, all of which have been fun and pretty successful. But I’ve got my sights set on a bigger fish this year, and even if we don’t get to go for one reason or another I thought I would share the fruits of my planning labor with all of you because this deal is just too good to go to waste.

Franklyn D. Resort— and sister resort FDR Pebbles— are all-inclusive resorts on the north coast of Jamaica with an outstanding feature: each family has their own vacation nanny included in the price of their stay. This is appealing to us for obvious reasons – with 3 kids even our best vacation involves very little “couple time” and we often have to try out the adult activities alone while the other parent stays with the kids, which is still fun but not quite so romantic.

It gets better. There are lots of promotions being offered every time I check, but both resorts are currently offering the following special:

Families with physically disabled kids (*when I called they said any disability with a medical certificate will be considered, just call prior to making reservations) will save 50% year round.  It’s a great deal for the family as an additional fully trained Vacation Nanny is assigned exclusively to each family to assist with your child.
  • Not applicable during USA holiday or Destination holiday periods.
  • May not be combined with any other promotion or special rate.
  • Medical Certificate from a doctor required

So in our case, we would get one nanny for the babies, one nanny for James, and all of us would be half price. Half! I am only a little ashamed to say “Thank you, James!” for making my tropical dreams come true! The thought of a nanny sitting with him to play on the beach while we go in the ocean guilt-free and together is AMAZING! The thought of doing it all for half price is worth at least two more exclamation points!!

It gets better, no kidding. Before you come, the nanny will get a list from you of your kids’ favorite treats, foods and drinks (I plan to slip a few of my favorites in there too) and will have your fridge stocked when you arrive. We would be able to have yogurt for James’s meds instead of packing gross non-refrigerated pudding in a suitcase. Hooray! The nanny service is free until 4:40p.m. and then a mere $6 per hour afterward. Maybe we’ll splurge and hire a third nanny for a 1:1 adult/child ratio.

If you don’t have a special needs child, a.k.a. huge discount to Jamaica**, don’t fret. Check out for a long list of promotions and for all of the other awesome activities and services included in the all-inclusive price.  And, don’t be too jealous. The round trip plane ride with 2 babies and a special needs child more than makes up for the discount in price.

**Hopefully nobody has been insulted by my characterization of James as my Jamaican meal ticket. Those of you who know me know that dark humor is my life jacket.

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