January 31, 2023

Wiral Baby

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My Passport to Traveling – Special Needs Parenting

Special Needs puts a particular challenge to travel depending on our child’s needs. Our son Joey (age 41) has always been a quite good traveler but could be (for the full duration of a trip) distracted, side-tracked, and out to get that one fly that is following us around. Ask us about it sometime! And we’d love to hear your story, because we are pretty sure you have one (or more!)

While there are places many of us can take our kids, there is the realization that sometimes it’s hard and we might have to say “no” to a lot of things we wish we could do. On the other hand, a dear younger mom friend of mine and her husband with their 2 teenage daughters needing 100% full time care in wheelchairs and fragile medical gear just got back from EUROPE and even traveled with the girls a few years ago to Hawaii. Some might have a twinge of jealousy but honestly my only thought is that they are my heroes! Traveling with a registered nurse is a must, but I give them so much credit working through feeding tubes, seizures, lots of special needs gear, diapers, and much more yet with the gusto of living life to the fullest!

For those of us who can’t travel with our child or loved one with special needs (for whatever the reason) I have another idea. The young mom I mentioned in the previous paragraph and I have had seasons of life when we as parents and couples couldn’t travel. Perhaps that’s where you find yourself, as well (especially with higher gas prices and other traveling expenses that are high right now.) So a number of years ago we decided we needed to be creative in this pursuit of travel. I made us both pretend passports, and whenever we get a chance, we find a restaurant with the cuisine of a place we’d love to travel to, I do a little report on the location, and we spend a few hours catching up! We stamp our passport until the next time we get to travel.

While this is something we’ve enjoyed for a while, I think it could be fun to do as a family. We could think outside the box with our home-made passports:

  • Have each family member make their own passport choosing a picture they want to use in it!
  • Maybe we can’t go across the pond, but we can go to Little Italy and walk the streets and enjoy gelato on a hot summers’ day.
  • How about visiting a garden (or garden center) when things are in full bloom and choose what country you’re visiting and learn about their local flowers and blooms!
  • Going to a particular cultural center meeting people of that culture could be educational, interesting and fun.
  • Attending local city band concerts might allow us to move around the periphery to where the sights and sounds aren’t as overwhelming. Think of the possibilities of where these songs might travel you to!
  • Outdoor venues like hiking (paths, of course), ponds, etc. can allow you to make up where your destination is: Finger lakes of New York? Great Lakes in northern USA (we live by Lake Erie)? The pond near your home…

These don’t seem to work for you? Get a “Things to See” guide from a city near you or go on-line and request the same. See what might work for you. The possibilities are endless if you begin to think outside the travel box and get creative to find places to see and people to meet! Have fun, don’t forget to stamp your (fake) passport and someone a postcard!


Dr. Joe and Cindi Ferrini share their newest book: Love All-Ways: Embracing Marriage Together on the Special Needs Journey (order at www.cindiferrini.com). They are authors, speakers, and bloggers for several blogging sites on marriage, family and special needs. They spoke nationally for FamilyLife Weekend To Remember Marriage Get-a-Ways for 20 years, authored *Unexpected Journey – When Special Needs Change our Course, and have been interviewed on Focus on the Family, FamilyLife Today, Janet Parshall at “In the Market”, Chris Brooks of “Equipped” and various other radio and television venues. Connect with them at:


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Joe and Cindi have been married since 1979, have 3 grown children, grandchildren, and enjoy speaking together on topics of marriage, parenting (including special needs), leadership, and time and life management. They have written articles and blogs for Focus on the Family, FamilyLife, Family Matters, and others. Together they authored: Unexpected Journey – When Special Needs Change our Course. Cindi has written time management and organizational materials as well. They LOVE what they GET to do….

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