Longer, sunnier, days are here! The opportunity to take our children’s or youth group out for the day or just for a couple of hours on a club night has arrived! Perhaps to the beach or the countryside, maybe to a park or to a children’s farm, there are lots of places that we can take our children and young people to, including those with additional needs.
But for many of us, it might have been quite a while since we planned a trip out like this, so here’s a reminder of then useful things to remember!
1 Don’t leave it to the last minute – allow processing time
While the attraction of an impromptu trip can be tempting, if we leave deciding whether to go and where to go until the last minute can make it really difficult for children and young people who need processing time to prepare for a significant change.
Plan as far in advance as you can and, if possible, involve each child or young person.
Seek their input: what are the things that they are worried about? What do they want to have with them to help them feel safe? What resources will help them feel in control of what’s going on?
The more you talk about the trip and work together through any fears, the more likely you are to have a successful trip.
2 Take a mental ‘journey’ through the trip – list the likely issues
Think about everything from the packing, the travelling, where you are going to and the things you are going to do, the people you might have with you and the people you might meet, the food you are going to eat…everything!
What are the likely issues going to be for children and young people with additional needs?
List them, and then start to think about how to reduce the impact of each one.
For example, if food is going to be an issue, could you contact the place you are visiting and request a special menu? Or could you take some favourite food items with you?
3 Create a social story for the trip
A social story is a sheet that uses photos, symbols and words to explain a bit about something new or complex for a child or young person with additional needs.
You could create one for the trip to outline all the different things that a child or young person needs to know, giving them the tools to understand what the trip will be like.
You can find out more about social stories on the Reachout ASC website.
4 Create a visual timetable
Put together a timetable for the trip, using symbols or photos to represent each aspect of the trip for each child or young person.
If possible, have a photo of them on some Velcro that they can move along the timetable as you go through the trip.
It will help them to know what is happening now, next, after etc. There is an example of a visual timetable template on the Reachout ASC website (link above), called ‘Our day at home’.
5 Take favourite things
What favourite toys or items does a child or young person with additional needs use to help them to feel safe and secure?
Make sure these aren’t forgotten, but pack them in your hand baggage. You don’t want them getting lost! It may be that you could introduce a new item to take on the trip, something related to the place you are going.
For example, if you are in Cornwall, you could get a toy seal to take with you for when you visit the Seal Sanctuary at Gweek. The toy seal could be your ‘trip mascot’ and the child or young person could have the job of looking after it.
“Plan as far in advance as you can and, if possible, involve each child or young person”
6 Have a dry run and check out any special assistance
If where you are going to isn’t too far away, you could take a journey just to see it, to have a look at where everything is.
Some places have special assistance for people with a child or young person with additional needs, so it would be worth exploring what can be provided.
It often helps to ask for assistance well in advance.
7 Have things to do
Whether you are going by train, or travelling by car, coach or minibus, there may be long periods with nothing to do.
Take a pack of activities that can be brought out to fill these gaps.
Depending on each child, this could be some colouring, a book to look at, some fidget toys to use, some Lego, or something on their tablet to watch or listen to, whatever helps them fill the time and not get bored.
8 Remember snacks, drinks, medication, essential equipment…
We usually remember important things like tickets, money, phones etc, but make a list of what else you will need.
Do you need to take a child or young person’s medication with you? Have they got enough, or do they need to request a repeat prescription well in advance?
Have you got some snacks and drinks for the journey? Don’t rely on being able to stop somewhere on the way, you might be stuck in a huge traffic jam just at the time someone communicates that they are thirsty or hungry.
Useful in lots of ways – to sit on for a picnic, to wrap around someone if they are cold, to pull over someone if they are needing to shut the world out for a bit, to use for comfort if hurt.
A blanket is an essential item for a trip with a child or young person with additional needs.
10 Remember sun cream, sun hat, waterproofs…
The sunshine can often be stronger that it looks, and a cloudy day can turn hot and sunny very quickly, so being prepared with sun protection is important.
And, of course, we live in a country where we can have all four seasons in a day, so hope for the best, but plan for the worst by having waterproofs at the ready just in case!
Finally, make sure you capture the memories from the trip by taking some photos and writing down some of the things that you did together.
You could even scrapbook the trip out together by adding some items from your trip so that you can look back on it again.
There are lots of other things that you could add to this list, a simple first-aid kit for example, but I hope these reminders will help you to plan for, and have, some wonderful trips out in the longer, lighter, sunnier days of summer!