We are often a hair’s breadth away from messing up a family outing. It is not just about special needs parenting, but simply—parenting. Much of it...

involves planning because we do not like to be jumped by nasty surprises. So we try to cover grounds, as thoroughly as we can. 

In a nutshell, we try our best to beat the stress. 

Day-outs involving individuals with special needs are not all that different. We cover grounds too, only slightly different ones. And we want to tell you about them, to help you understand how we plan and what goes on behind the scenes.

Is that big enough for my buggy?

Transportation and capacity. Some of us carry specialised equipment. We can be really mobile—on wheelchairs and buggies, and these stuff have to be stored and transported. The last thing we want is to stand by the road with a wheelchair, a bagful of equipment, five individuals, and hope for a 7-seater taxi to come along. You’ll probably find better odds at lottery. 

Yet a taxi booking is all there is to it. Pre-book if we must, the day before. Planning—an easy fix. It costs more but we are getting our money’s worth. Life is never perfect. Remember, it’s about enjoying the occasion.

No jostling and yelling, please…

Stimuli is the word. The sensory inputs associated with crowds: noise, physical contacts, claustrophobic environments, can strain even the common individual. And it can be overwhelming, if not devastating, to the delicate senses of individuals with special needs. They can cause them to become distressed, or develop a greater propensity to wander and lose themselves in crowds.

Mei Lan, mummy to an autistic child, suggests that an accepting environment is best: privilege entries, express queues and routes, suitable holding areas for wheelchairs and buggies, even if it means paying a premium for them. Stress-reduction is a priority. 

Stall that furry creature!

Costumes, performers, painted faces. Anything alien. A converging horde of mascots might not appeal to a regular child, much less one with special needs. Worse if they should tap your shoulder for a photo opportunity and jump you out of your skin—a sentiment expressed by Wendy, mummy to a child with cerebral palsy—and to which we can all relate. Cartoon conventions, theme park parades, lion dances. We’ll probably give them a miss.

Oh, for the love of ramps!

Barrier-free accessibility. We cannot emphasise that more. It is an elemental part of mobility for all the brave souls on wheelchairs and buggies. The presence of excessive physical obstructions kills the venue as far as they are concerned—whether it is a trade-show, museum, resort or an amusement park. It is all about surveying the day-out venue and knowing what it contains. Family-friendly facilities are, of course, a huge bonus. 

Slash those surprises!

By going on staycations—a wise idea Kenneth, daddy to a child diagnosed with Pompe disease, offers. Going on a staycation forces us to plan; from the facilities right down to the food options. It is an all-in package that is predictable and provides maximum control and least surprises. We avoid the peak periods, we have the accommodation close by, we chart the accessible routesand the rest stops. We plan the entire day’s fun.

So what’s new in all this? Only if we forget that day-outs require diligent planning. It pays to plan, to anticipate, if only to beat stress and enjoy the occasion as much as we want to.

Special needs? Well, we’ll just plan and anticipate a little more.

C E Tham

Through blogging and social media, CE Tham and his wife hope to share about their parenting journey with their older boy Joel and his younger brother Amos, who was diagnosed with Down syndrome at birth.

CE Tham and his family can be reached at thumbs.sandals@gmail.com or at their blog.

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Question of the Month

  • Q: What are the various compressive suits available and in what way do they help a child with special needs?

    A: There are various compressive suits available worldwide, just do a google search on compressive suits for therapy and a long list will appear. Each suit has different properties, is made of different materials and claims to have certain benefits. For example: compressive suits for children with autism are supposed to improve sensory input. Compressive suits have also been used for children with poor balance and proprioception (knowing where your limbs are in space). However, not all suits are suitable for all children. Compressive suits can cause increased difficulty in breathing, worsen scoliosis or hip dysplasia if not fitted properly.

    Please consult your therapist for an assessment before use.


    Janell Lee
    Paediatric Physiotherapist

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Credit: A video by Trixie Chua & Celine Kim for Special Seeds Singapore.

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