For a while, the thought of taking my kids on a trip was daunting. My son was a wanderer and my daughter got overwhelmed with sounds. For these reasons, we figured camping would be a good option for our family. The great outdoors offered an opportunity for my son to get in lots of steps and movement. My daughter enjoyed the quiet of nature.
Texas and Arkansas have plenty of great state parks, many of which have accessible trails. Some of the parks have cabins available to book. Depending on the park, cabins may or may not have restrooms. Some cabins are more primitive, with just a screened-in area with concrete floors. Our kids enjoyed sleeping in a tent and, with experimentation, we learned which park sections were the quietest.
Like any trip, you must plan ahead and pack wisely. Communicate with your child. Be flexible. Take breaks and, most importantly, have fun!
Planning for camping means making sure the site is accessible and will meet your needs. I recommend downloading and printing park maps. During spring break, we knew that we needed to reserve our site ahead of time if we wanted to be in quieter areas of the park. If you need electricity to charge wheelchairs or communication devices, make sure to reserve sites that have an electrical hook-up.
You can call the park office ahead of time to verify accessible restrooms or paved trails—plan for no internet. Our kids loved looking at books and games but also playing with things they found in the woods. A favorite stuffed animal always helped.
Packing wisely means ensuring medications, any special equipment, or special dietary needs are packed. Include meals, supplies and any other necessities. While grocery stores or pharmacies are often close by, it is better to be prepared and have everything you need with you. If it looked like we might have a rainy day, we made sure we packed extra towels and blankets. We had to head into town to a laundromat once to dry out sleeping bags.
Make sure your child understands what you will be doing. Take communication tools if your child works best with them. Visual schedules helped our kids understand what we were going to do each day.
We were flexible and took breaks. If the kids were tired, we didn’t try to rush. If the kids were having fun playing in the stream, we let them. Sitting around a campfire or laying on our backs enjoying the stars was relaxing.
Our trips were never perfect. We had car breakdowns or sudden storms. One time, a stuffed animal left behind at a restaurant caused us to circle back an hour. With it all, we tried to remain upbeat and positive because trips are supposed to be fun! As a family, we have fond memories of our camping adventures.
As the parent of a child with mild Cerebral Palsy, I learned that the word “hurry” doesn’t apply to my son, Jason. With motor planning difficulties, hurrying just wasn’t something he could do. I learned to adapt and accommodate our schedule to allow extra time. However, when I found myself in the situation of caring for elderly parents & parents-in-law, and our son, I struggled to find the patience I once had with Jason.
Categories: Family Support