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Local Professor Offers Tips For Travelling With Special Needs Children

Varleisha Gibbs (credit: Lauren K. Whetzel, University of The Sciences)

Varleisha Gibbs (credit: Lauren K. Whetzel, University of The Sciences)

(Photo by Ed Fischer) Lynne Adkins
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By Lynne Adkins

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Traveling with special needs children takes planning anytime, but during the holidays its crucial to be prepared.

Airports are loud and crowded, causing terrible discomfort for a child with a sensory processing disorder who may be bothered by the sites, sounds and other passengers. Varleisha Gibbs, assistant professor of occupational therapy at the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, suggests packing a goody bag.

“We can give them noise cancellation headphones so they can block out sound. We can give them music that’s calming and soothing. We can also provide smell intervention,” Gibbs says. “I believe in essential oils and aromatherapy.”

If the child has favorite bed sheets — bring them. Also, try to keep a normal schedule and pack favorite games and activities to pass the time.

If you’re staying in a hotel, Gibbs says, call and ask questions.

“Is there a conference or anything going on at that time when you’re traveling?” she says. “Are they hosting a party? And if so, can we place our room at the opposite end of the hotel?”

Try to keep the child on his or her schedule, travel at non-peak times and keep familiar, comforting items nearby.

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