5 Tips for Preparing Your Special Needs Child for a Day Away from Home

Thank you for stopping by to visit! It is my hope and prayer that you will find some bit of encouragement, a few resources to equip you, and someone (me!) who can relate to you as you journey through life as part of a family living with autism. Some of my posts may include affiliate links. Welcome!


Over the summer, we try to do a few fun things with the family. Fun activities to help us make memories that we will talk about for years to come. Each summer that looks a bit different.

Some years we have traveled to my in-laws’ cabin (open to renters, so be sure to check out that option if you would like a leisurely week on the river with  your family!) and spent a week grilling, tubing, playing games, and generally enjoying the very calm way of life found in that little town.

Other years we have spent the summer preparing to move and then moving to a new state. We are so glad that kind of year is not coming up again any time soon!

One of most favorite days of family fun happened when we decided to spend the day on a very large local lake. We rented a boat; prepared lunch, snacks, a bag of possible needed ‘extras’, and extra clothing; and headed out.

I am early on in this special needs journey, so I will not pretend that I have it all down pat. However, there are a few things that I have learned in the short time that we have known about our daughter’s special needs.

5 Tips for Preparing Your Special Needs Child for a Day Away from Home familieslivingwithautism.com #specialneeds #autism

I hope that, by sharing here what we have learned, I can offer some tangible way to ease the daily frustrations that can come with parenting a special needs child. It is also my desire to offer hope that the things you may currently believe to be impossible, can become possible with just a bit of planning ahead.

5 Tips for Preparing Your Special Needs Child for a Day Away from Home

Always have snacks on hand We all know that hunger in children only exacerbates any ‘issues’ we may be having. In a special needs child, these issues can be amplified, especially if your child is also hungry. Making sure I have some favorite, healthy snacks on hand has become one of the first things I do when we are planning to go anywhere! This simple step will abate hunger until the next meal, and will also help you to avoid spending extra cash on items that may be outside your budget or that could contain allergens.

Bring along an extra set or two of clothing My daughter lives with some sensory issues. One of them is that she cannot stand to be wet or messy when she is not ‘supposed’ to be. On a recent trip to the zoo, we stopped in a restaurant on our way back home since it was time for dinner. Not too long after our arrival, my daughter spilled her entire, cold drink in her lap. Crying immediately ensued. My sweet girl was cold and wet, and worried that she was going to have to stay that way. However, because I was prepared, I was able to immediately exit the restaurant with her, change her clothing in our car, and walk back in to enjoy our meal as a family. Had I not thought to pack an extra set of clothes for my daughter, just in case, she and I would have spent the rest of the evening out in the car while our family ate, and we could possibly have endured a very long and loud ride home. I am not some great mom for thinking of this. I never needed extra clothing when we went out with my other four children. However, God is helping me to know this daughter, to anticipate her  specific needs, and for this I am thankful.

Pack a few favorite toys and/or comfort items If you will be spending any time waiting, maybe in a doctor’s office, at your homeschool co-op, even in line at the drive thru or car loop, be sure to have a bag handy that holds some fun toys and books for your child. If your son or daughter has a favorite blanket, stuffed animal, book, set of cards (this was my daughter for a while), stick those in the bag, too. These items can make the difference between a pleasant time together and some very stressful moments for you and your child!

Create a ‘preparedness’ bag On our boat day, I made some last-minute additions to our stack of things we were taking along. The first was a light sweatshirt for me, as I tend to get cold when I am wet and it is windy, plus a sweatshirt for each of my two youngest children, for the same reason. The other was a small zip-top bag into which I put some migraine medication (for me), a bottle of children’s tylenol, a small box of princess bandaids (you can always take something like this along if you have a little prince!), and a bug bar. Little did I know that this very last add-on would be the deal-breaker for the day. My husband allowed my two youngest children to take turns ‘driving’ the boat, which meant they sat on his lap with their hands on the wheel as he steered. On one such turn for my littlest girl, his fingernail inadvertently scraped a scab she had on her knee. It hurt, of course, and she began to cry. Hard. Only when I pulled out the bag of ‘goodies’ I had packed and showed her the bandaids did her crying begin to ease. I was so glad I had thought of this last bag of items, again, just in case. I’m not sure how things would have ended up, but we had a much more pleasant experience and were able to almost immediately make our daughter more comfortable, because I was prepared.

Be willing to change your plans If all else fails and the day just isn’t working out, be willing to head back home or do something different. When my husband and I discussed the boat outing, I told him I was completely willing to try it…….as long as he would be willing to leave my daughter and I on shore if she refused to get on the boat or if mid-way through the day she had a meltdown that just could not be remedied without heading back to shore. He was. This made taking the ‘risk’ of a day out on the lake much more worth it, and everything turned out well in the end.

God is still teaching me. There may be many of you that already know all of these tips. That is great! You are way ahead of me. 😉

Some of you may feel that taking these measures is a bit extreme. That is quite alright, too. We all must make the parenting decisions that work best for us. Until such a time as my daughter is better able to cope with her sensory issues in a different manner, it is my job to know her and to anticipate her needs as much as I can, in order to make life more pleasant for all of us.

Oh, want to learn more about some of the supplies we took with us? Check out the links below!

Made On Bug Block

Stearns Kids Puddle Jumper Deluxe Life Jacket

Other recommended resources

Arbonne ABC Sun Screen

Arbonne Liquid Sunshine Lip Balm

Sand and water toys

Oh, and be sure to check out this fabulous resource from Project Sensory. I was just introduced to this company recently and I am SO impressed with their products for kids with sensory needs! Don’t you seriously need this Sensory Fix kit?

Sensory Fix™ for Everyday Sensory Needs

Do you have tips for preparing for a day out with a special needs child that I have not listed here? Please leave them in the comments. I would love to learn from you!

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