Cruising With Special Needs

We went on an eight day cruise out of New York with Carnival Cruise Lines. We chose this cruise because:

* we live less than two hours from Manhattan, so it eliminated the need to deal with airports and planes

* Carnival has the best children’s program

* GB has had success in the past with this program

* One of the excursions on this cruise was swimming with the dolphins

Eliminating the airport and flight was an unqualified success. It took less than an hour to complete the boarding process and GB handled it well.

Camp Carnival did not work out as well as it had in the past, even though their policy makes some accommodations.

Some of the snags were simply due to where GB is right now and some of then were because of policy. When you register your special needs child, they give you a questionnaire to fill out, giving them detailed information on your child’s diagnosis, their limitations, what to do for what and when to call you. Unfortunately, there were at least three different instances where the camp staff actually with the kids were unaware that GB had special needs. Their policy gives parents of children with special needs a cell phone, so they can contact parents with any questions or if their child starts to struggle. Great idea in practice, but none of the camp staff bothered to use it. Camp Carnival’s last accommodation was letting you choose which age group to put your child in. GB is nine, as is her NT friend whose family cruised with us. The age group choices were 6-8 or 9-11. I signed her up for the 9-11. That group had a wide variety of activities and GB could handle roughly half of them. She was unable to handle the large group when they were in a small room, playing video games, or dodge ball, among other activities. She simply shut down. The staff did not notice, much less call for me to pick her up. GB and I went through the camp schedule and identified the activities she would not be able to handle. We looked at what the 6-8 year olds were dong during these times and they were doing activities such as face painting, building a volcano, and making hats. I requested that GB be allowed to participate with the younger children when her group was doing activities that were beyond her. They said policy prohibited GB joining the activities that were appropriate for her and we would have to choose an age group. We ended up not using the camp and I have already written a letter to the cruise line asking them to change their policy.

Some of the factors that led to GB struggling with camp had nothing to do with camp policies. The last time we cruised, GB was stable on Risperdal. On Friday, June 11, 2010, GB’s Prolactin level was 45.4 ng/ml. She had to come off the Risperdal. She has been on many drugs since then and the best fit we have found is Loxapine and Topomax. She is not as stable on this as she was on Risperdal. The stress of living with Hope has also affected GB’s stability. She is much less trusting then she used to be.

Swimming with the dolphins was everything I was hoping for. That will get its own post.

One thought on “Cruising With Special Needs

  1. We have seen such a turnaround with T. being on Risperdal for the past month. I so hope that the judge in Massachusetts approves its use for her in the long term (a Roger’s Order is required in this state for certain drugs—don’t ask!); she’s on it now on only an emergency basis. And I also am about to go down on my knees to pray that no side effect like a high prolactin level gets in the way of her staying on it. How heartbreaking that GB couldn’t stay on it when it worked well for her! T. has been on a thousand different psychotropic meds, it feels like, and none have worked as well as Risperdal in evening out her moods (though “moods” hardly does justice to the extremes in feelings and behaviors that she experiences). I hope that GB will be able to get on something that is as helpful as Risperdal was to her. The experience with T. being stabilized has been so good for all of us—and it’s enlarged her world in so many positive ways. I have not seriously thought about what I’ll do if the judge refuses to grant his approval through a Roger’s Order. I’m pretty sure that I can’t go backwards with T. Much compassion to you all on your family’s journey. I’m sorry that the children’s camp didn’t work out well this time for GB, but I’m so happy to hear that parts of the cruise were just as you’d hoped. Swimming with dolphins—a gift of a lifetime!

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