Taking a child with special needs out of the environment where they are comfortable can be a harrowing experience for their parents. Yet, parents need to take their children to appointments, run errands, church, visit family and friends and even out to dinner at a restaurant. Consider packing a “survival backpack” for those occasions.
First, consider the needs of the child. Do they have sensory needs? Are they easily bored? Do they need a change of clothes? Do they have medications? Do they have a security blanket, doll, or stuffed animal? Brainstorm as much as you can on a list. Don’t worry about it being a comprehensive list. After taking your survival pack out with you a few times, you’ll learn what you’re missing or what you don’t need.
For example, if a child needs to chew on things, bring the chew items in the pack. A picky eater may need to have snacks and drinks they’ll consume on hand if there is nothing else available. If the child is rigid and won’t use someone else’s cup, plate, utensils, etc., make sure you bring theirs. If the child is easily bored bring traveling games, books, paper and pencils and listening devices survival backpack.
The superstores have a great variety of travel size games such as Chess and Scrabble have magnets or peg boards so the pieces don’t move or get lost. You can stay low tech and find Etch-O-Sketch, magnetic drawing boards, and dry erase boards. Pack small figurines, action figures, plastic dinosaurs, farm animals, and cars. Other children might be more content with Small journals, coloring books or sketch pads. Keep pencils, washable markers, crayons in pouches.
High tech options include handheld games (Nintendo, PSP, Leapster), portable DVD or CD players and MP3 music. If you go with high tech options make sure you carry around extra batteries and tools, if necessary, to replace the dead ones. Nothing is worse than a child sent on playing these things and you don’t have a way to make them work. Also make sure you carry along the extra games, DVDs and CDs for when they tire of the ones they are using. If your child likes to listen to stories, libraries of recorded books on CDs which are easily transferable to MP3 players. This is a source of hours worth of free and educational entertainment.
Once you know what kinds of things you’ll want to pack, purchase a high quality backpack with the features you’ll need. For example, you may want several pockets. One can be for you to pack the extra batteries, tools, medications, or wallets. Make sure your child knows this is your pocket and not for them. Some backpacks have holes where headphones can be fed through so the child can listen to something, carry the back on their back and still have hands free to do something else. There are pockets on the side for drink holders, cellphones, and pencil pouches.
If you child is school age, consider buy an additional backpack for school and one for “survival.” This will save you time from unloading and reloading. Keep the survival pack by the door or in the car so that it will always be available to you and the child. Make it a habit of regularly checking it to be sure it is stocked with what keeps the child satisfied. Add to the pack or remove from it based upon where you are going and low long you’ll be there.