Category Archives: Days Out & Holidays

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.

Why a trip to The Forest is good for those with Sensory Processing Disorder

Why a trip to The Forest is good for those with Sensory Processing Disorder

The Forest is a great place for someone with Sensory Processing Disorder and visiting a Forestry Commission site means that there are toilets, a café, parking and a park too. Suitable all year round both day and night, here are some of the reasons that I believe that it is a great place for Sensory Seekers and Sensory Avoiders.Why a trip to The Forest is good for those with Sensory Processing Disorder

Why a trip to the Forest is good for SPD and The Visual Sense (vision/seeing)

Visually there is so much to see in The Forest, but without it being too much (with the colours being mostly shades of green and browns). I do like how each time The Forest can be visited it may be different as the seasons change, giving something new to look out for, whilst providing that security of routine. Likewise The Forest gives the option of moving into the shade/dark or coming out into the open for more light. The Forest also has opportunities for getting really up close to things – as well as viewing them from a distance. You could even visit on a dark evening and take glow sticks.

Tonight's late night activity involved heading to the forest for a picnic dinner and stickman games.

A post shared by Joy Gloucestershire UK (@pinkoddy) on

Why a trip to the Forest is good for SPD and  The Auditory Sense (Hearing)

The Forest is a great place for the auditory sense because it can be so quiet – or so noisy depending on how you need it. Listen to gentle sounds like leaves crunching, birds, taping twigs, the wind, water – or for those that need it, make loud noises!

Why a trip to the Forest is good for SPD and The Proprioception (Sense of body position, from information received through the muscles, and joints – force, speed and control) 

The Forest gives them the opportunity to explore Proprioception – allowing different body positions using fallen/cut trees, or (carefully) hang from a branch, exploring going fast or slow, and even things like pouring water into a cup – as it does not matter if it spills over on to the floor.Why a trip to The Forest is good for those with Sensory Processing Disorder

Why a trip to the Forest is good for SPD and The Vestibular Sense – Movement and Balance/Gravity

The Forest is great for a Seeker in the Vestibular sense – with plenty of places to jump, spin, do star jumps, skip, hop, dance, play tag and run about. Do be careful with them taking excessive risks with climbing though – however we found that most of the trees were not climbable with the lower branches removed. The Forest is also suitable for taking bikes and scooters too. There is plenty of opportunity to practise their co-ordination, gross and fine motor skills. Or there’s the option of Go Ape.

Why a trip to the Forest is good for SPD and Olfactory (smell)

I think that The Forest is good in terms of smell as there are scents to enjoy/experience but it is not overwhelming. If more smell is required you could bring a scent with you that they can hold and sniff when needed.

Why a trip to the Forest is good for SPD and Tactile (touch)

The Forest offers lots of things to touch (mainly on their own terms too). There are trees, leaves, mud, water, flowers, mushrooms, stones, moss, pinecones, acorns, etc, etc. If you are feeling really brave (and I suggest spare clothes) why not let Seekers go barefoot – and splash in muddy puddles. If they are avoiders you can gently encourage them to try a range of new textures and sensations on small parts of their body and slowly build it up (eg start with finger tips until they can touch it with their whole hand). Seekers will be happy to walk around carrying as many sticks as they can too!Why a trip to The Forest is good for those with Sensory Processing Disorder

Why a trip to the Forest is good for SPD and Gustatory (taste)

Of course it is best not to eat things that you do not know what they are – but The Forest is a perfect place for a picnic and there are tables provided. Bring their favourite foods and make the day more special.

Can you think of any other ways a trip to The Forest is good for those with Sensory Processing Disorder?

For more information if you wonder if your child has Sensory Processing Disorder please read this post.

 

I receive free parking passes and material from the Forestry Commission. Words and opinions are honest and my own.

LEGOLAND Windsor, Brick or Treat, Halloween, Fireworks and the Hotel

LEGOLAND Windsor, Brick or Treat, Halloween, Fireworks and the Hotel

LEGOLAND Windsor has always been for me a place that really caters for those with special needs. We visited for this year’s Brick or Treat on Halloween and LEGO NINJAGO fireworks – deciding to stay in the LEGOLAND Hotel rather than going home.

LEGOLAND Windsor, Brick or Treat, Halloween, Fireworks and the Hotel

LEGOLAND Windsor and Additional Needs

The first time we ever visited was because an Autism forum were having a meet up and all agreed it was the best place to meet the needs of their kids. Well this must have been about 9ish years ago now and it has never let us down yet. They offer a ride access pass so that those who cannot queue can still access the rides. This is for 10 rides but we have never done 10 yet (in fact the last day we managed 3 rides!). Also I believe this is down to the understanding nature of the staff. For more information please see my previous post: Disability Access Guide to UK theme Parks.

LEGOLAND Windsor Hotel in General

With the introduction of the LEGOLAND Hotel I think that LEGOLAND Windsor is even more accommodating for those with additional needs: Even those who are not guests can visit the floor with Bricks restaurant on – which also has additional Xboxes and an indoor play area. This gives a place to escape from the crowds a little. I noticed that the general toilets had paper towels rather than hand driers, and the toilets in the rooms had toddler seats built into the seat too.

For guests of the LEGOLAND Windsor Hotel there is (obviously) the benefit of having a room. This is super themed in LEGO, with clues to solve to open the safe (to reveal a LEGO gift) as well as a box of LEGO to play with (great for fine motor development).  The rooms have LEGO TV for the children in their room (and another tv for the adults). The beds had light switches by them – but you can also take the key card out to stop the lights from working (our Sensory Seeker just kept flicking it on and off!!!)

LEGOLAND Windsor, Brick or Treat, Halloween, Fireworks and the HotelThere was entertainment provided in the morning and night time on the floor which is level with the LEGOLAND Resort. There’s a LEGO themed swimming pool inside the hotel (which also helps calm the Sensory Seeker). The towels are provided and it is communal changing rooms of a good size (5 of us fitted in with plenty of room); with refundable lockers at £1

Breakfast is included in the price of the stay and is an all you can eat buffet. There’s a section which is lower down so that children can help themselves. There’s a good range of foods available – meeting the needs of even the fussiest* of children. Hotel guests are able to enter the LEGOLAND Resort** earlier than normal the next day – beneficial to those who are unable to cope with crowds.

See also my previous post when we stayed at The LEGOLAND Hotel for Junior Brick Builders Week

How the LEGOLAND Hotel was beneficial for the Sensory Seeker on Fireworks night

Although LEGOLAND continue to elevate the problem of large crowds dispersing from the park after the fireworks, this can still be overwhelming for those with additional needs. We felt that staying overnight would make the situation easier for us. On staying I also discovered some other benefits.

LEGOLAND Windsor, Brick or Treat, Halloween, Fireworks and the Hotel

First of all the hotel gave us a place to recover. If the Sensory Seeker had over done it (or become over stimulated) we could take him back to the room away from the crowds. That is not to say that the room wasn’t further stimulating but he could watch LEGO TV to help him calm down. If your child needed to sleep during the day this is also provided it as an option. As we went for Halloween it allowed our Sensory Seeker to dress up and have face paint on in the evening – which he would have found too much to have on all day. It meant that we did not need to carry around additional things (such as spare clothes in case he had an accident) as the hotel is located within the park. It also allowed us to take additional things like light up bands for the fireworks – but equally ear defenders or sweets could be left there. You may be interested in my previous post on Sensory Processing Disorder and the Auditory Sense to see whether fireworks may be a problem or not. When it came to the Firework display there was a hotel guests viewing area in the Driving school – meaning that the Sensory Seeker had somewhere to run around and not be crowded in.

LEGOLAND Windsor, Brick or Treat, Halloween, Fireworks and the Hotel

Conclusion of The Sensory Seeker at The LEGOLAND Windsor Hotel for Fireworks night

The Sensory Seeker had an amazing time and has not stopped talking about it. He is very familiar with LEGOLAND Windsor which I think helps. He actually collected his brick for going 5 times this season. He was super thrilled that he is 1.2m tall and can go on all the rides. There were a few teething problems (such as being turned away from the disabled queue because a ride was closing for the fireworks and the sheer amount of people trying to move after the fireworks) but all in all I think that LEGOLAND Windsor strive to improve the situation. The main problem I can see is if the fireworks are too much then you are unable to go back to the hotel. We were able to do the “after dark” challenges and collect limited edition pop badges before going to dinner at Bricks. It took the boys ages to get to sleep as they were just so excited! I would definitely recommend this and do it again – it certainly was a nice change from Trick or Treating. We were also pleased to see that Brick or Treat was on until November 2nd so the boys were still able to participate in the Halloween activities that LEGOLAND had put on for the Half Term.

LEGOLAND Windsor, Brick or Treat, Halloween, Fireworks and the Hotel

You may also be interested in my post about visiting Disneyland Paris with Sensory Processing Disorder (where there was also fireworks).

Other bloggers who have additional needs in the family who stayed at the hotel at the same time as me are Purple Ella and Our Little Escapades who may offer a different view point to mine.

*disclaimer hopefully! ** Note that only a few rides are open at this time though.

This is not a sponsored post. I paid for my own Merlin Annual Pass and room at LEGOLAND Windsor Resort. All words and opinions are my own.

Disneyland with Sensory Processing Disorder

Disneyland with Sensory Processing Disorder

Disneyland with Sensory Processing Disorder

I think that it is obvious from the mere mention of Disneyland that this is going to be a place with plenty of sensory experiences. How someone manages Disneyland with Sensory Processing Disorder is going to be determined by how they are effected. This post is written in terms of how we helped The Sensory Seeker when we visited Disneyland Paris and an insight into things you may want to consider if planning a visit. The things may also apply to other Disney parks.

Disneyland with Sensory Processing Disorder

How old is the person you are taking to Disneyland with Sensory Processing Disorder?

We had previously taken The Sensory Seeker in the first two years of his life. Obviously we were unaware of his Sensory Processing Disorder at that time and believed things were due to his age. He pretty much cried and cried the whole time. Obviously we have also learnt a lot more about how to deal with his Sensory issues since but I do think you need to consider the person’s age. And height. As with all theme parks there are restrictions on rides with minimum height requirements. Some children are easier than others to explain this to. Find out which rides they can and cannot go on and plan accordingly.

When to go to Disneyland with Someone with Sensory Processing Disorder

I think you really need to ask yourself what is best for the individual with Sensory Processing Disorder. If they are an avoider then it is going to be much harder for them to cope with peak season for example. Or the added touches of celebrations of Halloween and Christmas may be far too overwhelming. What are their main sensory problems – for example Spring is more likely to have a very high smell from the flowers.

Disneyland with Sensory Processing DisorderHow long is the park open (as it is open much later with fireworks/music/lights display on selected dates not all). If they are of school age and not home schooled I think that you need to consider how missing school will affect them by going at a quieter period. Personally we went in the May half term holidays – this is slightly quieter as French children are still at school. We felt that The Sensory Seeker is behind his peers too far to miss school for that period of time. Also think about how long you are going for. Would it be better lots of days and spread it out, or would one day in the parks suit the individual better and get it all out of the way? Think realistically about what you want to cover. It really helped us that we had been previously so knew which rides to head for. Also check what will be open.

When to tell the individual with Sensory Processing Disorder that they are going to Disneyland

A lot of things I would agree that planning and preparation is key. With Disneyland I don’t feel so much. The Sensory Seeker was told the night before, and even then I feel this was too early. He knows what Disneyland is, it is on the television ALL the time. He was hyped and had trouble sleeping. My only real problem with not preparing him is that he thought that we were going to Disney World and so was disappointed to find a pink castle.

How going to Disneyland can affect those with Sensory Processing Disorder

Auditory – there’s going to be a lot of noise stimulation – from the crowds, music from the carnivals, the rides. This can be a problem for both avoiders and seekers (as they can become overstimulated) – you may want to consider the use of ear plugs or headphones. They could take an i-pod and have their favourite music on it, or some calming down sounds. We also took a Kidizoom Smart Watch as he was able to record sounds into it – which is what helps him calm down (and was great whilst he had to wait). Think about how much noise there will be on each ride – will you need to warn them? Will it have any sudden sounds? Before you go try to work out where the more noise and quiet areas of the park are. Offer breaks and seek solace in the quiet. If your child is not scared of hand dryers then I found that these were quieter and offered a welcome break. Listen to them and give them control about what they want to do.

Disneyland with Sensory Processing Disorder

Visual – You cannot escape the visual stimulation at Disneyland. I couldn’t even begin to list it but the rides and special effects, the characters, the flowers, the Castle, the displays – I could go on.  Again consider the rides – is it dark or are there a lot of light effects. If they are a seeker think about spacing out the stimulating rides so that they do not over stimulate themselves. Sunglasses and hats are good at reducing the visual stimulation for avoiders. Seek places to sit in the shade or where it is darker – such as under trees. If a Seeker cannot get enough visual stimulation whilst at Disneyland (perhaps whilst waiting) then maybe take a toy spinner with lots of colours for them to focus on. This may also help you move on around the park if they get fixated with the visual stimulation in one part of the park/ride. If you take a pushchair (or hire one) consider getting a dark cover for it to block out the light and allow some chill out time.

Proprioception & Vestibular This is really a case of thinking about the rides again. Will they throw out their sense of proprioception – and how will they cope with this in such a crowded environment. Find the space for them if they need to spin around, or run, or allow them time out/let them rock, take weighted items with you if needs be, and consider hiring a pushchair (which isn’t like the “baby” versions). Let them carry the backpack – the weight of it will give them more of an awareness about where their body is.

Tactile – This will differ depending on the weather. Will you have a problem with getting them to wear sun lotion or a hat? Will hot or cold weather be better for their coping? Could they wear gloves/ear defenders/a coat? The Sensory Seeker actually got us to buy a new hat with ears that hang down the sides of his face.

Disneyland with Sensory Processing Disorder

Think about how you cope normally with issues such as labels and textures in clothing. Might this change throughout the day with the different stimulation? Could you take alternate clothes? (We took them in case of a toileting accident too). What will they be like in the crowds? You can visit Guest Services in City Hall to get a green card which will help with queuing/parades/displays etc. Take with you proof of the condition (they recommended a blue parking badge). They will also give a guide to disabilities and are very helpful. This will allow the individual with Sensory Processing Disorder not to have to stand in the big queues. The Sensory Seeker is very much into touching people’s faces and licking them so this card helped a great deal. Again a weighted blanket is good, and/or something to fiddle with.

We took plenty of snacks – try to take ones with a variety of textures. Also think about whether the Character meet and greets are okay for your child or a bit too overwhelming. Alternative watch the carnival as they go by but do not get too close. If you are staying at night it can get very dark but there are also lots of lovely lights around the park.

Disneyland with Sensory Processing Disorder

Note the worst part for me, never mind The Sensory Seeker, was getting through the bag check. It is crowded and people push (so desperate to get into the park). If you book a Disney hotel you get magic hours which means you can go earlier so it is less busy. There are quicker queues if you have no bag so I let my family go through and meet me on the other side.

Disneyland with Sensory Processing DisorderGustatory – check out what foods there are available before you go. You can take things in with you too. There are lots of water fountains about but we knew that The Sensory Seeker would not drink it so took some squeezy in to flavour it.

Olfactory – there are a LOT of flowers and smells from food. You could take your own scent in a bottle or on a cloth. Other than that I am not sure what you could do about it but it is something to be aware of. If anyone has any suggestions about this sense (or any of the others) I would appreciate your comments in the box below please.

Top Tips for Disneyland Paris and Sensory Processing Disorder

  • If you can book the on-site hotel – this will give you the opportunity for breaks, quietness, leaving things (such as weighted blankets) and so you can watch the firework display without it being too crowded/noisy (I say this I have never actually stayed so please check this is accurate).
  • Continue any Sensory Diet and Sensory exercises that you utilise at home.
  • Split up as a family if need be – allowing the individual time to relax or go on rides that suit their needs without the whole day needing to revolve around them.
  • Consider whether rides are proprioceptive (spinny), calming (water), dark or with lots of lights.
  • Listen to them – they may have loved spinning around at the beginning of the day but by the end it may all be too much.
  • Most importantly be flexible. For example if you were planning on staying for the fireworks and they just cannot cope then it won’t be enjoyable for anyone.
  • If you have a Seeker go and visit the big fan in Walt Disney Studios.

 

Visit Pinkoddy or tips on visiting Disneyland Paris on a small budget.  Plus see Top Tips for Disneyland Paris – Guide to EuroDisney. With special thanks to AttractionTix who made the trip affordable.