As I mentioned in my last blog, “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” we took a trip to Pittsburgh two weeks ago for Spring Break. We’re lucky and thankful that our kids are great on car trips, as long as plenty of snacks and activities are packed. They normally make it to the final hour or two before they need the iPhones.
Although having activities and snacks comes with dropping activities and snack which results in me turning around to get them most of the trip. But it’s a small price to pay for having them locked in seats for 7 hours.
The times the car rides become less fun is when ‘J’s’ sister (‘Baby J’) becomes unhappy because that is an automatic trigger for him. This was one of my earliest red flags of thinking this was all more than just empathy. The result is screaming and crying long after ‘Baby J’ is done whining or crying.
Along with checking out the Mister Rogers exhibit at the Heinz History Center, we also stopped by the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. If you haven’t been there, I recommend it. It’s huge and there’s so much to see and do!
Since it’s so big and it was a Saturday, there was a big crowd. ‘J’ was definitely overwhelmed. He wasn’t unhappy just unsettled. He didn’t stay in one place too long, didn’t go over to exhibits if there were too many people around it and was extra clingy. Luckily they have a great art area with painting and clay. This was a much quieter space and we spent most of our time in this spot.
I was talking to ‘J’s’ Occupational Therapist after our trip about his triggers and she suggested having a backpack with some items they may help calm him in these situations. At home, he’s good about going to his room to reset himself if he’s feeling overwhelmed. When we’re out in public or he’s locked into a car seat, it’s not as easy. Luckily we have quite a few backpacks on hand and I’ve since put one together with his headphones, sensory bottle, his squishy fidget dinosaur, small toys and his water bottle. We brought the headphones on our last plane ride and for some reason I didn’t think to bring them on the car trip. They definitely would’ve been helpful for when ‘Baby J’ was upset.
She also mentioned carrying the backpack may help him since weighted items can provide comfort. We’ve already tried this on shorter car rides (30+ minutes) and so far it has come in handy.
I’m willing to try any and everything that will provide him any comfort or organization for his mind and body. Not all will work, but through trial and error, I know we’ll find the best combination of sensory items and activities.