Surviving Summer Road Trips with a Sensory Sensitive Child
Children with sensory sensitivities associated with neurobehavioral disorders like ADHD and Processing Disorders are often overwhelmed by sudden changes to their environment. As a result, behavior is negatively affected. With summer break here (or days away), many families have busy travel schedules planned. This includes the often dreaded road trip, which can be a challenging event even for typical children but is especially overwhelming for a sensory sensitive child. The following tips will help your child and family not only survive a summer road trip but also enjoy the experience.
Prepare a Map of the Travel Route: Knowing what to expect will help a child with sensory issues to better manage their stress and thereby be less sensitive. In advance of your summer road trip, work together with your child to create a map that includes starting point, destination and stops along the way. It may also be helpful to associate the time it will take to get from one place to another and hopefully avoid the “are we there yet” scenario or even worse, hours of whining and complaining. This creative map activity will provide a positive association with the trip and encourage excitement around each stop. For help creating your travel map, use Google maps or check out our Summer Road Trips Pinterest board.
Avoid Screen Time: At Brain Balance, we believe too much screen time affects the ability of the brain to form healthy connections, leading to behavioral problems and other developmental issues. It’s tempting while on a long road trip to turn on a movie or encourage device use to keep a child entertained and pass the time. However, this can quickly result in behavior meltdowns over the course of the vacation, especially in sensory sensitive children. To prevent this from happening, consider replacing screen time with car games like “I Spy,” license plate game, or round robin story telling. Another great option for entertaining your child during a long trip is an audio book. These activities are not only great learning opportunities for your child to form healthy brain connections, but also offer ways to connect as a family. More ideas for road trip activities can be found on our Summer Road Trips Pinterest board.
Schedule Quiet Time: To manage stress associated with road trips, quiet time is necessary for all family members. Make sure everyone is on board for a period of quiet time every few hours. Playing classical music during this time will promote relaxation and also encourages healthy brain connections.
Avoid Fast Food: Healthy meals are hard to come by while on the road. However, fast food is laden with artificial ingredients and preservatives that can cause hyperactivity, heightened anxiety and behavior meltdowns in sensitive children. Pack healthier alternatives like fresh fruit, trail mix, or raw vegetables in advance, so you can avoid these negative food triggers.
Relax: Children are very intuitive and a sensory sensitive child may have a heightened ability to sense the moods of those around them. As such, it’s important the whole family relax and manage stress successfully. This will go a long way to making your child feel at ease and able to enjoy the trip.
Neurobehavioral disorders in childhood don't have to prevent safe and happy travel. The combination of these great tips will help you plan the perfect trip that will keep your child and family happy and stress-free.
Is it time to get help for your sensory sensitive child? If you suspect your child may need intervention, consider taking our online assessment or contacting a center near you to schedule a more comprehensive assessment. Summertime is the perfect time to complete The Brain Balance Program!
If your child struggles with processing sensory input or is already considered to have a processing disorder, contact us online or find a center near you to learn more about how the Brain Balance Program can help.