Thank you to Claire Cook for this fantastic blog.
Holidays? Anyone with young children will know that the word ‘holiday’ is a gross misrepresentation of what actually happens. In fact, it should probably be referred to the Advertising Standards Authority! A more fitting description might be ‘Endurance’ or ‘Test your Mental and Physical Metal’ or possibly even “Hell-iday”?
OK I’m exaggerating – but it’s at least half true! The pictures that make it onto Social media are the ones which display the serene, heart warming moments. What they don’t show are the 100 other photos taken, which depict sulking, squabbling, whining and in the parents’ case ‘wine-ing’!
Firstly, there is the epic task of finding somewhere suitable. For us, that’s somewhere hot and sunny (for my husband), but not too hot and sunny (for my fair, blonde and red headed offspring – and myself!). Somewhere we can drive to and still reach the heat (3 children, one with autism and Down’s Syndrome – and only 2 adults is not going to work on a plane!) – means it’s France for us every year (thank goodness it’s lovely!).
Then, and this is the really tricky bit for us – finding accommodation that meets our (apparently) rather demanding needs….. We have 3 young children, one of whom is disabled. It seems easy enough to search for ‘disabled access’ such as ramps (although options are still extremely limited), but…… in our case the disability is predominantly behavioural. Now – you try searching for accommodation that has super secure gardens, a pool (for sensory processing needs) which is super secure within the super secure garden, minimal steps, a level garden, no ponds, no gravel, limited breakable objects, preferably with stairgates available, preferably not a gas oven, fully lockable windows and so on and so forth. It might sound like a sensible list for anyone with young children, but when you have a child with no danger awareness and who is a sensory seeker junkie (climbing, mouthing, swimming, swinging, bouncing, throwing etc etc) – it’s essential!!
Perhaps surprisingly, this information is not readily available. And so begins the long, tedious and soul destroying task of finding and booking your ‘Hell-iday’.
We’re fortunate in that our daughter mostly copes with transitions well (changes in location, changes in routine etc) – if you have to factor that in too, then I can see why so many families with disabled children just stay at home or go to the same place for decades.
I think holiday companies could do a lot more – Many have slowly got to grips with improving physical access for wheelchairs (although still limited), but disabilities go far beyond the use of wheelchairs. I rarely see any consideration for those with learning disabilities or behavioural difficulties. Perhaps they would rather not have us visit, perhaps they’re just lazy, perhaps it hasn’t occurred to them. Any which way, it makes me sad.
A successful holiday for us, is where we haven’t needed to use the local A&E, we haven’t lost a child and haven’t lost our security deposit! ;o)
The kids will have an amazing time because the parents will adapt, protect and be creative in how they cope with the facilities. BUT – it would be so much nicer, if things could be a bit easier and we didn’t need a holiday to get over our holiday!!!
At least France has great wine!
Claire Cook, Author of the blog High Low Fast Slow, living with Down Syndrome and Autism. highlowfastslow.blogspot.co.uk. Mum of 3, 1 with DS and ASD