It wasn’t until my oldest son, who is living with Fragile X, was almost 3 that I began to have a greater understanding of his sensory integration challenges. Fragile X is the leading cause of inherited intellectual impairment and the leading known genetic cause of Autism. I was attending an education workshop, and I participated in an exercise that helped me understand what someone with Fragile X/Sensory integration challenges experiences. I began to view the world with a different perspective.
On our next trip to Walt Disney World, It was as if I was experiencing it for the first time. Guests are immersed in their experience even before entering the gates. Our senses are constantly bombarded. As my son grew older, it was clear that the sensory input, at times, was too much. If we wanted to continue to enjoy traveling to Disney destinations, we needed to come up with a plan.
Over the years, we have used many strategies to lessen the sensory bombardment. Trial and error is worth the effort and can lead to developing a great plan. Try to utilize strategies that are used at home/school/work and modify them for use while on vacation too! Here are a few of the strategies that we have used over the years.
1. Social Story
Search the Internet for examples or reach out to your speech therapist to help develop one for your upcoming trip.
There are many options available. Disney Park’s has a wide variety of videos to help those of us who are visual learners! Check out Disney Parks' YouTube Channel, here!
3. Review Disney resources throughout the planning process.
Check out the WDW Cognitive Guide, here!
4. Visual schedule
Search for “images” of Disney destination attractions/dining/parks/transportation. Many digital applications allow you to add photos to create the schedule on the go. Prior to having a digital device, I pasted those images into a word document, printed them out, laminated them, and then placed Velcro on the back.
5. Noise-canceling headphones/earphones.
This allows your child to either eliminate overwhelming sounds or decrease the level of auditory input.
6. Biting options
If your family member tends to bite on items, chew on gum, or has a preferred snack, bring those items with you. Gum is not sold on property. If your family member has brand-specific preferences, I suggest bringing your own snacks.
7. Downtime/waiting activities
Bring some preferred activities to help pass the time: pictures (of preferred people works for us), digital devices (wifi is available for FREE), card games, travel-size versions of games (magnetic options), coloring book/crayons.
Utilizing a backpack (moderately weighted works best for us) helps to provide the needed sensory input that helps your family member combat the overwhelming input. It is also a great place to keep all your items above.
The key is to integrate a familiar strategy with new options and modifications, and your next trip will be a success!!!