IEP Goals for Travel
Using IEPs to Build Travel Skills - It's Possible!
I just got back from a crazy travel day yesterday and every time I'm at the airport my brain starts firing more ideas about how can we use IEPs to build travel skills.
I know, I know - when we think of IEPs, we usually just consider academics as the core purpose of an IEP. But I’m here to remind you that IEPs can do SO much more! They are an amazing travel hack for building confidence in children for any kind of trip - whether it’s a cross-country road trip or hopping on an airplane.
I grew up in a family of four with my brother who has Down syndrome. Our “fancy” road trips were driving 8 hours to visit family in Missouri, packing a cooler and some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. When I was little, my mom even had her best friend come on two big trips to Florida so we could split gas money. We didn’t have much, but we made it work!
Those trips took specific skills - budgeting, planning stops, and keeping safe at rest areas. Now as an adult, I've been traveling extensively by plane and the opportunities to learn skills at school and apply them during travel are endless!
Here are just a few examples:
Time Management - Missing a flight (or running to catch the plane) can ruin a trip! Practicing time management at school is definitely a skill that can be used for all different pieces of travel. From alarm clocks in the morning to scheduling your Lyft ride to the airport in the afternoon. It's all about timing.
Waiting in Line - No one likes lines, but they’re inevitable during travel. Working on patience and coping skills for waiting turns lines at the airport from a very uncomfortable situation into a manageable inconvenience.
Asking for Help - Travel can be confusing, but being able to ask gate agents or other staff for help makes travel much easier. Practicing how to ask for help, instead of struggling through problems alone, builds confidence and safety.
Flexibility - Travel plans change - flights get delayed, roads get closed, things happen! Learning to adapt to schedule changes at school helps kids to roll with the punches during travel disruptions.
This is just a small sample - there are SO many applicable skills! As parents, teachers, and IEP team members, we need to think long-term. What are our students’ and children’s futures going to require? For most, it will involve travel in some form.
That’s why it’s so important that we communicate about travel goals. Parents - talk to your school teams about your future travel plans and any related concerns. As a teacher, have these conversations at conferences too. Ask families - are you planning any trips? What skills is your child going to need?
Then, we can intentionally work travel-related skills into IEP goals. They naturally fit with academics in many cases too. For example:
- Practicing counting money and budgeting can help with trip expenses
- Reading schedules, signs, and maps boost literacy skills
- Writing packing lists and agendas builds writing/typing skills
See? We can make IEPs exciting and meaningful by linking them to real-life goals like family trips. These aren’t just “life skills” relegated to certain classrooms - every student can benefit from developing travel confidence!
So talk to your IEP team and make a plan. You don’t have to wait for the next annual review meeting either. Just ask! The team can start helping build those crucial travel abilities right away.
Let me know if you have any questions, I love talking travel hacks and IEPs!
Happy travels, friends!