sensory processing disorder italy

Visiting Italy with Sensory Processing Disorder

Sensory Processing Disorder in Italy was always going to be a bit different than at home but The Sensory Seeker coped amazingly well during our stay.Of course there were times when he just didn’t cope, but there are some things I think made it easier for him and other things that I wish I had known before we left for Italy, that would have made things better for all of us. The main thing for us was to just make allowances: Letting him sleep in bed with us some nights whilst we were in Italy for example. Obviously every individual with Sensory Processing Disorder is different but hopefully some of this will help if you are planning on travelling to Italy.sensory processing disorder italy

Flying with Sensory Processing Disorder – What we learnt on our travels to Italy

So our flight to Italy was the first time we had taken the boys on a plane. The hardest part was the fact that the electrical devices need to have battery to go through security so the boys were unable to play with their iPods and 3DSs until we then and we weren’t prepared to risk them having them confiscated. In hindsight I wish we had taken the in-car DVD players – these could have been used in the car and again once we were at the resort (as there was no television) and they could have been packed in the hold. You should take into consideration the time of the flight – would it be easier if it was at a time when the child will be likely to sleep (remember this could be delayed and they could be overtired in the airport). Luckily our flight to Italy wasn’t a long one (or shouldn’t have been before all the delays). We did not take advantage of the flight’s special assistance but this means that we could have had priority boarding so that it was not as chaotic and noisy when he went on the plane. Saying that in Gatwick Airport we went through Family Security and this was much less of a wait and felt less intimidating than other security checks I have previously been through.

Tips for flying to Italy with a Child with Sensory Processing Disorder

  • Obviously have some entertainment that does not involve plugging in – a book, crayons, LEGO etc.
  • Give them a lollipop for take-off – this will help with their ears as well as giving them something to distract themselves with.
  • Decide whether you think they would be better with a window seat or not, if they need extra room, or easy access to the toilet when booking your seats.
  • Carry a charger (and adapter plug) with you – all the trains have somewhere to charge your devices and in Pisa airport there was free charging (with a lighting cable).
  • Of course let them know what is happening and what to expect in advance. The Sensory Seeker was selected through security and had to take his shoes off. I think because we had talked about everything with him it made it much easier. Speaking of explaining things we were delayed by 2 and a half hours on the way there and 3 hours on the way back – although we were past security and the electrical devices were able to be utilised (and charged) so this wasn’t a problem for us.
  • We took special things – a travel cushion, a soft throw and his favourite teddy.Flying with Sensory Processing Disorder

Things to consider in Italy with Sensory Processing Disorder

I think it is good to discuss things that are not quite the same – such as crossing the road. We discovered that just because you are crossing the road on black and white lines does not mean that the drivers have to stop! Here are some tips from our visit:

  • Plan where you are going and figure out where the toilets are. Book in advanced where possible (on the train this also means you do not have to validate your ticket before getting on). This can not only save you money but time too – some of the queues are actually really hideous. Find out which places are busy and which are quieter. You have to pay for toilets, so carry plenty of euros and 50 cents with you. I wish we had put on a map where they were located too.
    • AttractionTix offer a range of discounted and beat the queue attraction offers: We chose to review the Rome Hop on Hop off Cruise. As there was a bar and toilet on board it meant that we could literally hop on if The Sensory Seeker needed the toilet desperately without having to worry about where to find one. Getting on and off the cruise was straight forward and simple and The Sensory Seeker loved the narrative about the area as we went round. Particularly when we were near where Romulus and Remus were left in a basket on the Tiber River as babies (which he had learned about in school). It also allowed him to sit and calm down as we were taken around closer to the next major attraction we wished to visit. Children under 10 years old are also free! Just be careful when going upstairs as if they are too seeking they could end up going overboard.Rome Hop on Hop off Cruise
  • Be aware of the street sellers. One guy came and put necklaces on the boys for “free” and tied a piece of string around my arm even though I kept telling him no. They he was quite forceful saying he needed money for food. My husband gave him back the necklaces and we gave a euro for the string as I couldn’t get it off – he was still trying to get money out of us, but my husband was quite verbally forceful back. This experience was unpleasant for all of us but particularly The Sensory Seeker. They seemed to be where the tourist attractions are most. Try to avoid eye contact and do not get into conversation with them.
  • Italians do not eat at the same time as us here in the UK. At 5pm we found that they had not long closed up from lunch and could not get dinner. Supermarkets we personally fund difficult to locate and a sandwich meal deal cost us almost as much as eating out in a restaurant!italian food
  • Checkout the weather – we went in April and it was warm enough for us with just a bit of rain but did get really chilly on some nights. The mornings start out really bright though – but most places had wooden blinds blacking it out.
  • The sirens sound different in Italy – maybe listen on YouTube before you go so it is not so startling. Or use the headphones/ear-defenders.

Tips for sight-seeing in Italy with Sensory Processing disorder

  • First of all have a clear plan so that they know what to expect and when. Try to let them have input into what goes into this. For example if they just want to go swimming maybe you could incorporate that into the afternoon or evening for them.
    • Give them opportunities to allow them to do what they need with their bodies – run, spin, swim etc. Parks are good for this (and obviously swimming pools).
    • Ensure you plan in some quiet areas to take a break from noise/busy tourist areas.
    • Listen to them – our son needed breaks and said it was because his toe hurts. I am pretty sure that actually he was sensory overloaded and needed a time out.
  • Establish clear rules of what behaviour is expected and any rewards/consequences. In our case this largely involved a lot of Gelato!gelato - the best in the World in Italy
    • They may be unable to deal with their feelings (and possibly become upset or aggressive). Be aware that they may regress (eating with their fingers, need reminding to go to the toilet). Remember that this is a big deal for them and try not to chastise them for their behaviour, instead try and find ways to help them cope. We know that with The Sensory Seeker letting him talk about his favourite computer game helped him calm down. You can also use hand gestures to get your message across, when they do not appear to be responding verbally, or carry visual aids.
      • Don’t beat yourself up if you did get stressed though – it is hard for us parent/carers too and we are only human. You sometimes may wish to explain why they are licking the locks on the public toilet! The nearest thing I could find is: “Mio figlio non e’ cattivo. E’ autistico. Per favore, siate comprensivi” Which translates to “My son is not being naughty. He is a child with autism/He is autistic. Please show some understanding.”
    • Consider carrying packed lunches so they can be eaten in quieter locations – and it will alleviate the problem of finding somewhere to eat when they are hungry. Alternatively there are many Pizzerias where you can buy pizza/sandwiches take-away. If you carry a water bottle you can also have an instant drink – plus there’s water fountains around to refill them too.
      • You could get the individual with Sensory Processing Disorder to carry the bag for the pressure (weighted work).
        • Also pack ear-phones; a hat and sunglasses; something to do with their hands/keep them occupied (maybe a map to hold or a toy).

If you have any questions or experiences about visiting Italy with Sensory Processing Disorder I would love to hear them in the questions below.

 

Plutonium Sox

Thanks to AttractionTix for the Hop on Hop off Cruise.

5 thoughts on “Visiting Italy with Sensory Processing Disorder

  1. I’ve not heard the term sensory processing disorder before so it would be interesting to learn a little more about it. I think it’s great to prepare children for what they may encounter without scaring them. #familytraveltips

  2. I had not heard of sensory processing disorder so your post is a really interesting read. I know how much planning goes into a holiday for children without this condition so it must be so much more involved for you. It’s really great that you’re able to take him to places like Italy, I hope you continue to have successful travels!

  3. What a brilliantly useful post, I do hope that people travelling with children with Sensory Processing Disorder find this post as I believe it would really help them. I love the idea of Family Security, perfect for making the flight less stressful for children. Thanks for linking up to #familytraveltips
    Nat.x

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