Tracy Jensen has six children; one son has spina bifida, and her daughter has cerebral palsy. Both use wheelchairs.
“When we fly, some airlines are not as careful as others with wheelchairs,” says Jensen, who lives in Fountain Valley, California. “It’s a huge struggle getting down a plane’s aisle, and it’s hard to use the small restrooms.”
As a mother of children with special needs, Jensen is not alone in facing such travel hurdles. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics, one in six children ages 3 to 17 have one or more developmental disabilities nationwide, and still more face other challenges. Conditions such as autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, a visual or hearing problem, or mobility issues can feel like obstacles to travel.
They don’t have to be, says Dr. Arthur Lavin, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health. “Family vacations are a gift parents give to their kids,” he says. “As important as it is to share the world with typically developed children, it’s also important for special-needs children to have adventures and fun.”