Field trips are fun outings for most schoolchildren, but can be times of stress and disruption for children with special needs.
Before your child boards that bus, find out the answers to these eight questions to make sure he or she has the safest and most productive experience.
Who will be administering my child's medication on the field trip?
If your child gets a nurse's assistance with managing ADHD, diabetes, asthma,
or other medication needs, make sure there will be a nurse on the trip to fill that function away from school. It may be a nurse who doesn't work at your school, and you may want to speak with him or her before that to share details of your child's care. If a teacher or staff person will be filling this role, you will want to make sure that they know what they'll be doing and are adequte to the task.
How long will they be on the bus to and from the field trip?
Your child may be accustomed to riding on a small special-ed school bus,
but for a field trip will most likely be on a huge bus with a large group of mostly regular-education students. If it's a short ride, that may not be a problem. If it's a long one, you'll want to strategize with your child's teachers ways to make that time pass safely. If your child has fidget toys, a weighted vest, an iPod, keys, or other comfort items to pass the time, see if he or she can bring them along.
What exactly will my child be doing on this field trip?You know better than anyone what sort of activities set your child off. Maybe it's walking long distances, as often happens on field trips to large facilities. Maybe it's sitting still and being quiet, as would be the case with a play or concert. Maybe it's tolerating heat, as might be an issue at outdoor attractions. You've likely developed strategies for dealing with these problems, and will want to share them with your child's teacher so that your child can be managed effectively.
What expectations will there be for his behavior while on the field trip?Because your child's class may be in with a large group of regular-education classes and teachers who are not ordinarily in close contact with him or her, there may be people who will have higher expectations than your child can meet. Talk with your child's teacher about the need for lower expectations and increased support in a disruptive field trip environment, and offer any materials necessary to get everybody well-informed on what your child can reasonably do.
How much supervision will my child have while on the field trip?
Depending on the number of chaperones, students may be led around in large herds or small groups. Depending on the age of the students, they may be watched closely or given some freedom to roam. Since your child's needs may differ from that of the other students, make sure there will be personnel available to give him or her the degree of supervision needed. If your child has a one-on-one paraprofessional
, make sure she or he will not be assigned to lead other children as well.
What does my child need to bring or wear on the field trip?Children with special needs are often bad reporters of classroom instructions for unusual events. Your child may fail to tell you he needs a snack, or tell you he does when he doesn't. She may declare, while you're walking out the door, that she has to wear her school shirt, or clothes of a certain color. To be prepared, ask in advance exactly what your child needs to have with him or her for the trip, and whether special outfits have been requested.
What happens if I don't want my child to go on the field trip?The answers to the questions above may fill you with doubt as to whether this will be a safe and productive experience for your child, and you may be tempted to just say no. But what happens to your child then? If the entire class is going, and most likely the entire grade, what will your child do at school? He or she may be warehoused in a regular education class, or stuck unsupervised in a gym or library. If you don't want to keep your child home, find a way to make the trip do-able.
Can I go on the field trip too?Maybe the best way to make a field trip a good experience for your child is to go along as a chaperone. Often, schools are eager for parents to come along and help. Other times, there may be only a chosen few parents allowed. Make your case to your child's teacher that you will be able to help monitor your child's behavioral or medical needs, and remove him from the action if necessary. It may be hard to arrange the time, but your presence can make a big difference for your child.