TRAVELING WITH SPECIAL NEEDS PERSONS – MUSIC REDUCES ANXIETY!


Summer’s here and, for many, it’s time to hit the road or the airways for a vacation. However, if someone in your family suffers from a disability or has special needs, the trip can be challenging. I want all families to thoroughly enjoy and have fun on their summer vacation and this month I’d like to offer some guidance about using Music Therapy to make this happen.

It’s important to remember that music is the language of the soul and, therefore, reaches special needs persons in ways that nothing else can. A few of the techniques we use to help special needs persons include:

– Singing
– Song Writing
– Fun Lyrics
– Movement
– Improvisation
– Rhythm
– Playing Instruments

Using these modalities, we can:

– Reduce Anxiety
– Reduce Stress
– Improve Mood Stabilization
– Decrease the heart rate, respiration, and uptake of oxygen
– Facilitate smooth transitions
– Improve social skills

Consider how important it will be to reduce anxiety & stress, improve mood, help with transitions and help regulate breathing & heart rate while travelling! And of course, it’s often disguised as a fun activity!

Before we look at specific ways to use music therapy while on a trip, let’s take a look at some basics of traveling with a special needs person. Here are some reminders of important considerations:

– Car Safety (Car Seats for Children, Child Locks, Limited Distractions…for the special needs person and for the driver, Vehicle Readiness)

– Food (Consider Allergies, Pack a Cooler, Make Stops at “Food Friendly” Stores)

– Seating Arrangements

– Frequent Stops (Including a “Pee Can” …maybe a coffee can…when a stop is not possible)

– Paperwork & Protection (Access Passes, Physician’s Letter, Child Tracking Device, Identify Hospitals and Health Centers…both along the way and at the destination)

– Know Your Limits (Maybe try a short trip first)

– Over- and Under-Stimulation (Prepare a “Sensory Tool Kit” … here’s where Music Therapy really becomes a part of an enjoyable trip!)

Click here to see more tips including ideas for packing, airport tips, a pre-flight checklist and more.

 

Below, I have some specific tips on how to use music to help your loved one while travelling. If you’re flying or on a train, consider these tips that help in a more crowded public space:

– Prepare a playlist for your special needs companion of his/her favorite songs for a listening device (with headphones).

– Bring along books that they love to look at or read.

– For some (especially those with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), using “Binaural Beats” on a listening device can be a possible solution. ADHDBOSS offers more insight into this.

I hope this is helpful as you plan your summer trips!

——————–

MUSIC THERAPY ROAD TRIP TIPS

Bring along a drum, egg shakers, or a small xylophone. This can be used for calming & soothing during transitions or unexpected delays, drumming along with the radio, and you can play fun tunes you’ve created together.

Use simple tunes for learning and transition:

Create a tune (or use one learned in therapy) for transitions. For example, “Mary had a little lamb” can become “Suzy, it’s time for buckling up, buckling up, buckling up; Suzy, it’s time for buckling up, so we can ride on the plane.”

Create a simple song to identify colors you see while traveling.

Do the same thing for animals…Old McDonald comes to mind

 

And, what about trains? Many children and adults are fascinated by trains. If traveling by car, search out the trains and sing train songs. You could even create a melody to tell the story of The Little Engine That Could.

It’s helpful (and fun) when all the traveling companions (except perhaps the driver, of course) can participate in these activities.

Have several playlists of your special needs person’s favorite songs, or songs that you know are calming or help with re-focusing.

Consult with a music therapist to increase safety and effectiveness.

Kim McMillin

RN, MA, MT-BC, RPT, LMHC, LMFT (CO)
Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Board Certified Music Therapist
I am passionate about helping others to find the goodness within them and to heal the barriers that prevent them from embracing the Light of Goodness inside. Each of us comes into this world as a magnificent Sun. What often trips us up is that we learn to identify with the clouds -- ugly things...

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Spokane, WA 99202

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