Categories: Parent Perspective

The concept of vacationing has always been a challenge for our family. As a single parent, it’s a lot of planning and prep for one person and at times can be very overwhelming. I decided over the years to do what feels right. Not to hold back from making memories and experiencing new things with Ady and at the same time keep safety the priority.

My daughter Adalyn was diagnosed with autism and sensory processing disorder at two years of age. She has some words and signs but mostly uses a speech device to communicate.

She has always had a love for water and the ocean. We’ve been able to do beach trips since she was a baby. The challenges when she was younger are still present now. The only difference is that over the years she has been involved in swim lessons and frequent trips to various pools to help her build her strength and endurance in the water. She is a very capable swimmer, but I feel it is necessary to always have eyes on her.

Keeping her safe at busy places like the boardwalk and kids amusement parks are also high anxiety for me, but I knew she enjoyed them so I just did my best to make it happen. Vacations are supposed to be fun and relaxing but in all honesty can be overwhelming when considering all the modifications traveling with a special needs child.

We went year after year to our family beach house  but I would have to take turns between going with just her and then going back for her brother and sister. It was just easier to take turns with them but then we didn’t always have a chance to be together as a family.

When we made it to the beach she would go straight to the water. There was no such thing as digging in the sand and playing on the beach blanket. It’s eyes on Ady and be ready to swim in the ocean water hours at a time and jump waves. We did use floaties when she was younger-just for added safety.

As she got older she got faster and stronger and really just wanted to spend time in the water. She still lights up at first sight of the beach. It is really one of her great joys. So as difficult as it was the positives outweighed the negatives.

By her side were her siblings Lincoln and Everly. Ady was my first child and then 18 months later Lincoln was born and then her sister Everly, shy of 2 years apart. So it wasn’t always where the focus could be on Ady. I needed someone to stay at the blanket with the younger siblings while I stayed with Ady. Her grandparents were able to help out when she was younger but as time went on it became too difficult for them. 

For many years we stuck with what was known and had been the easiest. I was afraid to travel to new places because of the fear of elopement or difficulty adjusting to new sleeping arrangements and the unknown of being in a strange place with a child that needs so much individualized attention.

I’m not sure what it was but this summer I decided to try a new destination. I planned a trip over the winter so I felt like I had plenty of time to prep. It was very important to that Ady had eyes on her at all times, so I decided to hire a nanny/family sitter to join us on the trip. She would be with Ady anywhere our family went during the trip and stayed in the condo with us.

We spent a week in Isle of Palms, SC. This ended up being the best decision. I felt at ease. Ady stayed close to me and our sitter. She developed a routine almost as soon as we got to our destination. The  stay at the beach condo went better than I ever could’ve expected. Ady woke up and watched the sun rise from the balcony and enjoyed looking out at the ocean. We were a safe distance from the beach but close enough to give her an amazing view.


Ady had opportunities to do things that I never would’ve felt comfortable doing by myself with three kids. We went fishing off the pier and  spent a day walking around downtown Charleston. Ady enjoyed restaurants every night, which is something we don’t get to do that often back at home. She even got to go kayaking with her brother and sister for the first time.

I encourage parents of children with special abilities to not feel overwhelmed by vacation planning. To reach out to family and friends for help, or hire a trusted nanny/sitter to join the trip. It was one of the best decisions I ever made for us. We made memories that I won’t forget and hopefully they won’t either. We got to experience somewhere new as a family. It was a huge step for us and going forward I wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.

Susan Bitler
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