I am more than thrilled to bring readers another instalment of Special Challenges With a Special Child. My series started just last month with a post on Angelman Syndrome. Today we are joined by Tawanna Browne Smith discussing travel for self-care. My daughter, Payton, and I met Tawanna in Puerto Vallarta on a travel media fam trip in 2014.
This travel influencer, entrepreneur and MOM, is a powerhouse. What you should know. Her Instagram lives rock and she’s working hard at mastering IGTV. She is the go to person for Moms who want to travel for self-care and need to build travel into their lives, but don’t know how to make that happen.
She once zip lined through the rainforest in Puerto Vallarta with my daughter Payton, and both were wearing flip flops at the time. DETERMINATION is zip lining in flip flops. Payton forever remembers that trip and won’t ever forget T because she also was sweet and funny and managed to keep flip flops on while flying through the jungle. Boss lady right there.
Happily she’s here to share her amazing tips on how to survive and thrive with a child who has special needs. Join me in welcoming Tawanna Browne Smith.
1. Tell me a bit about yourself. Please include name, city you live in and your website, business and/ or socials.
My name is Tawanna Browne Smith. I’m originally from Brooklyn, NY. I’ve traveled all over the U.S. and around the world. I currently live in Pasadena, MD which is about 10 minutes from Annapolis, MD and 15 minutes from Baltimore, MD. I create transformational retreats, group trips and personalized itineraries for female clients. Initially I started off with this business as a travel writer/blogger and have evolved over the years. I also do digital marketing projects with businesses and individuals.
2. How old are your children?
Two boys, ages 10 and 14.
3. Can you tell me a few things about your family and your child with special needs?
My family loves to travel. My husband works for the military so travel is common for him. I’ve been traveling since I was a teenager. I started my kids traveling when they were young. My 14-year-old is typically developing and off to high school next year. My youngest is going to 5th grade. My youngest son has autism. He is full of life, strong-willed and loves being around other people as well as being in the car or outside.
4. With respect to your child who has special needs, what is their diagnosis?
My youngest is limited verbally but can still make his needs known. Until age 4 they classified his autism as PDD (Pervasive Developmental Delay) and now that he’s 10, classify it as an Intellectual Disability. But I reject the term. I admit he has an intellectual delay but I don’t like the term Intellectual Disability.
5. What special challenges result due to their diagnosis?
Day to day challenges surrounding independence (tying shoes, toileting, personal care, communication, self-regulation).
6. How do you deal with those challenges on a daily basis?
I take long breaths! LOL. I start my day off praying actually. Then I think about the things I am grateful for. And I always remind myself that things could be worse. We’ve battled leukaemia with my youngest and survived.
Although autism is challenging it’s not life-threatening. So I just try to keep perspective. I use different systems to help me manage the day-to-day challenges. If my son is being particularly challenging, I stop trying to “get things done” until he is happy again. A lot of my frustration comes into play when I want to get what I want to get done but I have to attend to my child’s needs. It’s a tug of war that I’ll ultimately lose so I say to myself, why even go through the battle? I focus on accomplishing one thing for the day if the challenges are particularly great in that 24 hour period. And I tag team with my husband!
7. What advice do you have for other parents of special needs children?
See above. LOL. Ultimately, you have to not only be patient with your child but you have to be patient with yourself. Figure out what the problem is and the best solution to solve it.
8. Do you travel together as a family? Do you travel on your own? How does this work?
We do a combination of traveling. We travel as a family. Every few years my husband and I will go on couples only trip. And throughout the year, he and I go on solo trips or trips with friends. Since much of my business revolves around travel, it makes sense that I would travel more often. However, I think I’d travel often anyway even if I wasn’t doing work within the niche. I honestly tell my husband what I need – that I need time to myself periodically. It’s just the way I’m wired.
To keep things balanced we talk about the places we plan to travel during the year with friends, etc. When I travel, he adjusts his work schedule and accommodates me. Because I work from home, nothing really changes when he travels. I have to do a lot more coordinating but that’s nothing new for moms. As long as it gets me to my ultimate goal, it is worth it.
9. Is there anything else you want to add or share that might help other families who are struggling?
I think it’s important to be honest with yourself. Reflect and write down what you need, what’s making you unhappy, what you’d like to work on, and who you need around you to help you out. If your marital situation isn’t ideal, then you may have to look to extended family or friends to lend a hand.
Final Thoughts on Travel for Self-Care:
Make sure the time-out is a give and take with you and your spouse. You each need and deserve a break. Be sure to communicate and negotiate it. I wrote this article about traveling for self-care which goes deeper into the how and why of traveling for a self-care break: http://momsguidetotravel.com/moms-use-solo-travel-for-self-care/
Remember to love and to breathe!
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