16th July 2019 • Emma Cooper
Being a home ed Mum, I am expecting July and August to be much different this year.
Rather than it being a time to access theme parks, airports and holidays it may well be a time of learning and avoiding such places due to not only how busy they will naturally be, but also because our learning is 365 days a year and the odd days off for a theme park or holidays have already happened for us.
Our recent trips have been to Legoland, Chessington World of Adventures, Birdworld and a holiday to Cannes. Upcoming events include preparing for Reading music festival and much more. So, I thought that maybe sharing the tips I have learned along the way may help others about to embark on their SEND summer holiday adventures!
1) Have a Radar key
The Radar key is a key which opens over 10,000 disabled toilets in the UK. If your child needs the bathroom in a hurry, there isn’t always time to hunt down a staff member to give you the key. It is much wiser to have your own on you at all times. You can purchase a Radar key from Argos for about £7. Do not feel embarrassed to use the disabled toilet if your disability isn’t visual, many autistic people will go into shutdown /meltdown over hand dryers, many people with Chron’s or bowel issues don’t ‘look’ disabled you have to do what is right for your family.
2) Use the sunflower lanyard in airports
Heathrow and Gatwick and many UK airports will recognise the lanyard as a way to identify families with disabilities. Wear it for help with fast tracked security, boarding and more. I keep a supply of these in my office so when families tell me they have a holiday booked I hand them out for their trip. Most airports supply these so do ask your travel agent or, if you book your own holidays like I do, just ask at airport.
3) Create a family What’s app group
We have one, simply named ‘Fam’ and it consists of me, my daughters and my parents. I’m a single mum and this really helps as there are so many of us all with busy lives. If one of the girls needs a lift, a loan or help of any kind, a request is simply made on the group and one of the adults responds. It saves many texts to many numbers, saves confusion, mixed messages and misunderstanding and also relieves the huge burden of one person (i.e me!) be absolutely responsible for everyone. When we flew abroad I had 12 paperless boarding passes in my phone for flights. I couldn’t enjoy myself as I was terrified my phone would run out of battery, break or get lost. I sent the passes to the family What’s app group knowing the chances of all our phones being unusable was very unlikely. It takes the weight off!
4) Theme Parks have different access systems
It’s really worth your time checking the theme park websites prior to arrival. Legoland offers a pre- registration online to access a shorter queue for access pass on site. With others, it’s a case of turning up with the right evidence of disability. Most places will accept DLA or medical letterheaded paper dated within last year. Autism can prove a tricky one here as not everyone claims DLA or PIP and we certainly don’t get the luxury of seeing a medical professional every year. I can offer help to families of autistic children with this so do get in touch if you need some help!
5) Carry at least one fully charged phone power bank at all times
Saves the panic of getting a train seat next to a socket or the lack of iphone /ipad /tablet at the crucial moment of needing one in case of a delayed flight. For some theme parks such as Legoland your whole ride access system is on your phone. Dead phone? No rides!
6) GET IN THE PHOTOS
How many times have you seen a photo from the past and laughed at how you thought you looked awful but now you wish you could look that way again??!! Sometimes as a carer it doesn’t matter how much scrapped together time you condensed to get ready and feel good – we can feel frazzled, yet our children really need photos of all their family when they are older. Lose any embarrassed feelings, gulp down your inhibitions and have a blast; we may not be perfect, but we are authentic and that’s more than most!
I hope you all have the very best holiday times, I’ll be back in August with back to school and home ed tips! More holiday tips can be found right here.