By guest author Peggy Ployhar
The home school schedule offers incredible flexibility for field trips. Unfortunately, there are many other considerations when planning field trips for special needs students. In fact, field trips are often the most stressful experiences for special needs home schooling parents.
New places for most special needs children are often filled with excessive sensory input, new social situations, unfriendly venues for dietary needs, as well as toileting hurdles that can leave even the most prepared parent completely exhausted. But with careful planning and preparation, great adventures can be added to the home school calendar for a special needs child, even if it is only one well-planned outing each year.
Here are some tips to make a field trip for your special needs student a successful adventure:
- Plan your trip carefully to ensure your destination is not too adventurous an excursion for your child, especially if your child doesn’t venture out to new places often.
- Don’t be overly ambitious with your outing details. Plan breaks and leave lots of time for unplanned interruptions.
- Plan well ahead so you have time to thoroughly research and prepare your child for the trip.
- Determine the accessibility of the facilities at your excursion site to make sure all mobility and toileting needs can be met.
- Gather all the information you possibly can about where you are going, including brochures, maps, at-home activities that relate to your field trip experience, YouTube videos, and website information about the destination.
- Prepare your student for the trip by sharing your gathered information in bite-sized pieces, and watch the excitement and interest grow in your student as the field trip date approaches.
- Create social stories about things that are more than likely going to happen on your trip and walk your student through those transitions and interactions in advance.
- Make a visual schedule of the field trip for your child. Then, at least a week ahead of time, go through it step by step, along with the social stories you have developed, to further increase your child’s comfort and excitement about the trip.
- Plan out your meals and snacks with predetermined restaurants that meet your child’s dietary or mobility needs or both. Also plan what food to bring with you and know where outside food is allowed.
- Bring a security item for your child for the duration of the field trip. That reminder of home will help your student not feel completely lost in the new surroundings.
- Plan to bring help if you think you might possibly need it.