Travel Smarter: Special Needs Field Trip Tips

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This time of year it’s easier than usual to make homeschooling fun! Even if you aren’t “schooling” over the summer—or homeschool year-round—there’s always a benefit to experiential learning! For some, field trips are a regular part of homeschooling, but when you toss in a special need, it can definitely add a degree of challenge.

You might be thinking that it’s so much easier to just read about it and save your entire family the hassle. I mean, if you’ve ever taken an overstimulated child on a group field trip and things spiraled out of control, it may very well have been your last one!

I’m sure you remember that time you read about the sea: it was nice. But…oh to actually see the ocean waves crashing on the shore! To hear the sound of the seagulls squawking overhead! The feel of the soft, yet gritty sand between your toes, the salty air on your lips, and the smell of coconut suntan lotion! That is something you’ll never forget; all because you lived it! All of the first-hand ways to experience education can be so unforgettable if you’re prepared. Hands-on, in-the-moment, on-location can be the very best way to learn something! Those experiences help build connections throughout your life and they do the same for children.

So…don’t give up just yet! Here are a few pointers on being able to take advantage of field trips despite possible sensory overload and tricky transitions! I want to encourage you to imagine the possibility, plan for the unexpected, and tap into all of your senses to go beyond the books to learn. Attempt to get the most out of field trips despite any disability. And remember, even the simplest destinations have something to offer!

TIPS

When planning, give children an itinerary or picture schedule to ease transitions and reduce anxiety. Find and print them here at Do2Learn or download a visual picture schedule app like the Choiceworks Calendar.

When possible, connect field trips to content area studies (such as
science units and time periods).

Think theme-based (this works particularly well for global learners
and kids on the autism spectrum).

Plan trips based upon your children’s interests. If you can foresee a challenge about the trip or location, consider prepping with social stories to provoke conversation and provide a concrete way for kids to cope or understand what might happen. You could also utilize an app like Model Me Going Places 2 which has a slideshow of children modeling appropriate behavior.

Utilize local resources such as state parks, industries, museums,
historical sites, etc. A great resource is any Junior Ranger Program!

Make requests of other people to share their knowledge, expertise,
and passions.

Check into your local and state homeschool association, co-op, or other support groups for field trip ideas and opportunities.

Be sure to call ahead and discuss your child’s special needs, any
necessary accommodations, medications, lunches, etc. Most places are very helpful and understanding.

Check out the destination’s website, teacher guides, handouts,
and children’s activities to take advantage of all the location has to offer!

It’s just a misconception that you have to pack, spend money, or actually TRAVEL to go on a field trip. In fact, if you’ve never gone on a virtual field trip, you’re missing out! If you have extreme circumstances that do require you to stay in, know that you can still experience many great virtual field trips on Pinterest or by visiting your favorite blogs. A new one I like is Grace-Filled-Moments or a live streaming field trip provider that is homeschool specific like Field Trip Zoom!

As a special bonus, our friend Lesli over at This Crazy Home School Life is offering her unique family travel journal if you do head out, and you can get 20% off of her latest family travel journal and anything else in her online store with code HSLDA20!

Safe Travels!

~Kristy

Photo Credit: Graphic design by Anna Soltis.

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