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Sensory Strategies for Travel!

Katie Caspero, MS, OTR/L

Three curious children gazing out of an airport window with wonder and excitement.

Embarking on a journey can be an exciting yet demanding experience for anyone, with the intricate web of airports, coordination, and logistical hurdles to overcome. When a child with sensory sensitivities is involved, the endeavor can take on an added layer of complexity. We understand the unique challenges you face and are here to provide you with practical insights to ensure your travels are as smooth and comfortable as possible.

Understanding Sensory Challenges:

Traveling can be particularly daunting for children who grapple with sensory sensitivities. The shift in routine brings forth an array of new sensory stimuli – sights, sounds, smells – which can potentially disrupt sleep patterns and exacerbate existing sensory issues. Among the most prevalent hurdles are those related to heightened sound sensitivities, especially pertinent when considering air travel.

Navigating Air Travel with a Sound-Sensitive Child:

  • Visual Preparations: Begin by familiarizing your child with the airport environment. Watching videos of airports in advance helps them visualize what to expect and introduces them to the typical sounds they might encounter during their journey.

  • Noise-Canceling Headphones: Consider utilizing noise-canceling headphones, an invaluable tool for muting the often overwhelming noises of airports, airplanes, and highways.

  • Comfort Items: Encourage your child to bring along a cherished toy or comfort item. The presence of these familiar objects can offer solace and reassurance amidst unfamiliar surroundings.

  • Personal Sensory Backpack: Empower your child by allowing them to pack their own backpack with sensory-friendly items. This enables them to select items that provide comfort and ensures easy access when needed.

Strategies for Sensory Challenges:

  • Advanced Research: Prior to your journey, delve into whether the airport you are traveling through has a sensory room.  Here is an incredible resource with a list of airports that currently have sensory rooms.

  • Preferred Snacks: Carrying your child's preferred snacks is an invaluable strategy. Not only do these treats offer comfort, but they can also help mitigate potential stress.

  • Social Story Preparation: Create a personalized visual guide, outlining the sequence of steps involved in navigating the airport or car ride. This can be an artistic and interactive method of explaining the journey, aiding comprehension and cooperation.

  • Allot Sufficient Time: Opt for less crowded gates at the terminal or schedule a few rest stops during car rides. These measures provide respite from the sensory intensity and ensure your child's comfort.

Acknowledging the Potential Impact of Travel:

Recognize that travel can potentially amplify stress levels, thereby intensifying sensory requirements. By proactively informing your child about the travel plans and what lies ahead, you can effectively prime their sensory system for the upcoming journey. This proactive approach can also serve as a motivational factor, empowering them to conquer these intense sensory experiences.

Seeking Support for Your Child with Sensory Needs:

If you are a parent of a child with sensory sensitivities and you're searching for services that extend beyond conventional treatments, you're in the right place. At Kinspire, we are committed to providing uninterrupted, comprehensive, and collaborative care for both your child and your entire family.

Discover how we can initiate daily progress by completing our Getting Started form and scheduling a complimentary 20-minute consultation with one of our expert therapists. As an added bonus, you'll be paired with a therapist who specializes in sensory challenges within 24 hours. Your journey towards effective support and solutions begins here.