It's hard to imagine how a child with autism feels in theme parks full of many other children, filled will all kinds of sounds coming from the different ride and the flashing lights. Two places, however, are trying their best to make travel and trips easier and more enjoyable for children with special needs and sensory disorders.
Legoland Resort in Florida, U.S., has "quiet rooms" where children with autism can wait in line in peace. They are "specially equipped spaces" equipped with noise-cancelling headphones, weighted blankets, squishy toys and LEGO building tables, according to the press release.
The "quiet room" was made possible through Legoland's partnership with North and Central Florida Chapter of Autism Speaks to serve guests on the autism spectrum better. Through the partnership, the resort also introduced no-wait passes specifically for guests on the autism spectrum so they could skip the long waiting lines.
Meanwhile, Shannon Airport in Ireland opened a sensory room, the first of its kind in Europe because it understood that large crowds, loud noises, waiting in line and going through bag checks and security can be stressful for kids with special needs.
In the caption for a video shared by the airport on Facebook, the room is "tailored to be a soothing place away from the activity of a busy airport." It has an aquatic bubble tube, an undulated wavy wall, color-changing LED lights, a wheel projector, and other fun activities. Parents of kids with special needs said it gives their children a real tangible benefit.
In our search for sensory-friendly places here in the Philippines, we reached out to the Autism Society of the Philippines (ASP) to ask for their recommendations. ASP has collaborated with the likes of Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific Air and resorts to help them accommodate kids with special needs.
"As each kid on the spectrum is unique, there is really no hard and fast rule on what makes an ideal vacation spot," Magno-Veluz explains.
When ASP asked parents of kids with autism to name the best summer vacation destination for their child with autism via Facebook, they mentioned resorts and travel spots in Baguio, Cebu, Bohol, Davao, and Palawan. Many of the kids with autism loved the sand of the beach and calming sound of the sea, while some avoid noisy amusement parks.
Zambawood in Zambales (the owner's son has autism whom we have featured here) and Kingfisher in Pagudpud (ASP has collaborated with both resorts).
Pico de Loro, in Batangas, Henan Beach Resort in Bohol and Isla Perlita in Quezon (also owned by a family with special needs) for the view and their beaches.
Eden Park in Davao City (one parent suggested that its log cabin worked fine for her child)
Shangri-La's Mactan Resort & Spa in Cebu, which has a great children's play area apart from having a beach
Kimberly Hotel in Tagaytay, which offered a lot of activities for the kids, from swimming, walking around the petting zoo, and a movie night with free popcorn.
Aside from the usual travel tips that usually work for typically-abled kids, here are some of the tips we've gathered from parents of children with autism based on the ASP's Facebook feed.
Bring noise-cancelling earphones, sensory toys to keep him distracted during the trip, and your child's favorite foods.
Do a walk-through of the whole trip with your kid. Tell him what to expect, show her photos and watch videos of airplanes taking off, let her listen to the sound of boats or planes -- anything that could familiarize him for the trip.
Ask the help of his teachers and therapist to help you prepare your child for the trip, too!
Try to get a window seat so your child can see the sights, or sit close to the exits for easy offloading.
If you can travel early in the morning, do so, as those are less likely to be delayed. That way, you don't have to worry about keeping your child occupied while waiting.
"Make the trip an enjoyable one by bringing lots of patience and love," as one parent summarized it. Enjoy!
Do you have recommendations? Let us know in the comments below.