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  • Writer's pictureKat Lord

Organising Day trips with SEND in mind


Organising a day trip can be overwhelming, and while there is still lots to think about for neurotypical children, even more planning may be necessary for our neurodiverse children. I spoke to three Mums, who I also work with directly, in London about how they ensure they organise their day with their children's specific needs in mind. Jenny*, Richmond, has a son with autism/ADHD and a daughter who is currently being assessed, both in Key Stage 2. Natalie, Holland Park, has a son with neurodiversity in EYFS and Victoria, Twickenham, has a neurotypical daughter and a younger son, both Key Stage 1 aged.


Plan ahead


Taking away uncertainty helps children with different learning needs to feel calmer. Natalie said "My son needs lots of reassurance about who is going"

"Consider phoning ahead to discuss the needs, for example with my son with autism/ADHD taking him to a climbing wall, he needs someone

who is calm but fun, not too over-enthusiastic. He also needs to walk around the premises to get his bearings and feel safe, so we ask them to accommodate this."


Jenny* said, "Ask if they do any special sessions eg Science Museum does SENSational sessions." Early Birds is an accessible sensory friendly event for families who have children who need a quieter environment, these are free but booking is required. They happen on weekends throughout the year before and after usual opening hours. (sciencemuseum.org.uk)


Using visual aids or PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) can be used for communicating with children who are non-verbal, rather than using words or signs. There is a 'show and go' option for trips (pecs-unitedkingdom.com) or Twinkl.com has downloadable options.


Natalie said to allow extra time for environments with different sensory experiences, explaining that "children with sensory needs experience those ten times more than everyone else so it can be very overwhelming. Parents should be prepared for increase stimming"

Travelling Public transport is not always reliable, children with different learning needs feel safer with certainty. When driving or taxis are not an option, Jenny* says, "involving the child with the plans so they know, for example, we are taking the bus to x." Timing your travels can also reduce overwhelm.

"You don't want to involve rush hour tube journey with an already distressed child" Ear defenders reduces anxiety that children get from loud noises. Taking food and entertainment to make long journeys more interesting can help.


Food

Long queues, waiting time, busy tables and noisy chatting also frustrate us, so imagine how our children feel. "We take lots of their favourite snacks and also a packed lunch for both of them so I can feed them when every they get hungry and not worry about finding the right sort of café or restaurant." explains Victoria. Jenny* says "Take snacks and more snacks" making sure you have some for the journey home too.

Entertainment

Taking toys or activities to keep our children entertained on transport, at the table or when they may have to wait can create a calmer trip. What we provide might be different. "I take something to keep both children busy if I'm having to focus on the other; for my neurotypical daughter this will be colouring pencils and a pad and for my son; fidget toys, headphones and an Ipad with his favourite music downloaded." Victoria told me. "Taking alternative entertainment in case [the event] eg concert is too boring/over-stimulating" Jenny* advised. "Easy things like Top Trumps/pens" Jenny goes on to say, "Be prepared for people to frown when you whip out the iPad so that you can have coffee/lunch/chat to a friend- they will not understand parents of children with SEN and are in no place to judge." She also advises to take a screen with headphones. However; there is a way to help other people be more aware. "We also take out a Sunflower lanyard with us which I find it really helps people to understand and have empathy if my sons having a difficult time." Victoria said. The Hidden Disabilities Sunflower can be worn to share with others that you may need more time, support or understanding for Neurodiversity that may not be apparent. (hiddendisabilitiesstore.com) Allowing the children to explore their own curiosities leads to a much more positive experience for them and you. This might not be what was originally planned. For example, some children may be interested in the gates, doors or switches and while this should be met with patience and understanding, Natalie says "she wouldn't advise promoting obsessions as they may get worse over time." Toilet time With children, you have to be more prepared when it comes to bathroom breaks. Knowing where the toilets are, planning it into your day and going for a "magic wee" (where they sit on the toilet and count to ten even if they don't think they need the toilet) can make the day run more smoothly. Victoria says she always takes a "RADAR key so we can use the disabled toilets." The keys can be bought for £5 for people who require them. (disabilityrightsuk.org) For children who have sensory needs, public toilets can be overwhelming. Natalie said while some children hate the hand dryers, her neurodiverse son loves them. And You! The most important thing is to be kind to yourself. When planning their food, make sure you take enough for yourself. Have confidence that you know what is best for your child. All the patience, understanding and kindness you give to them, don't forget to give that to yourself too. Kathryn Lord




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