Summer brings along the fun activities that are usually more related to this season than others; activities that usually entail more socialization, meeting new people and visiting new places. This might be exciting to some, but frustrating to others, especially to parents and family members of children with disabilities.
We have all heard about the great initiative of the Malta tourism authority has taken, that of creating accessible beaches around the Maltese Islands. Għadira bay is a showcase, it has beach wheelchairs, accessible ramps, hoists and walkways which allow anybody with limited mobility to access the beaches like everybody else. What about the other beaches around the island? Currently the beaches that have physical accessibility are the following (reference MTA):
- Ghadira (Mellieha Bay) – Sandy beach, 3 wooden walkways, 2 concrete walkways, 3 beach wheelchairs
- Golden Bay – Sandy Beach , 1 walkway, 1 beach wheelchair
- Bugibba Perched Beach – Artificial sandy beach, ramp leading to the sandy beach however, access is not easy to the sea
- Qawra Point (Fra Ben) – Rocky Beach, ramp leading to a chair hoist recently installed.
- St. George’s Bay – Sandy beach, ramp leading to the sandy beach, 1 walkway, beach wheelchair
- Pretty Bay, Birzebbuga – Sandy beach, ramp leading to the sandy beach, beach wheelchair
- Gozo: beach wheelchairs available in Ramla Bay, hondoq Bay and Maraslforn Bay.
- Beach wheelchairs are available from 10am and 5pm and users must be accompanied by another person.
‘Fail to prepare, prepare to fail’ once said Benjamin Franklin, and he was right. However, it is smart to know exactly what you need to prepare.
Going to the beach
The more familiar children are with the environment, the lesser their anxiety levels and the result is better behavior. If you happen to be invited to join a group of friends at a beach that your children have never been to before and you think that this might be a challenge for your child, then some strategies can be taken to lessen the tantrums and increase the fun:
1. Show pictures of the new beach to the child, and if possible, picture of the persons who will be in the group with you; it’s good if the child is aware of whom they will be spending their day at the beach with.
2. Take toys, loads of toys – children will need to be kept busy ideally with toys that they are familiar with. If new toys are to be bought, such as beach toys, pretend – play (as to how to make use of the toys) is done at home before beach day.
3. If, you think the atmosphere can be too noisy for the child, then try to make use of noise-reducing headphones.
4. Waiting time to access public toilets or at the beach restaurant can be a tantrum trigger. This can be minimised lifeguards or restaurants are informed beforehand that your child has autism and then perhaps queues can be skipped.
Some beach hacks for D-day:
1. Use talcum powder to get the sand off skin – some children might not let you wipe the sand off their skin, or they wouldn’t want to wear their shoes unless they have removed every single sand granule off their feet. Using talcum powder might facilitate the process.
2. If the sand can be over stimulating for your child, then try to use an upside down fitted sheet, weighed down in each corner, makes a great playing area for your child away from the sand but still next to you or other children.
3. Some children might not find the sea very interesting and would prefer to just play in the water rather than swim. There is nothing wrong if you carry a children’s pool to the beach with you. Set it up close to the sea or close to where you’re stationed and just let the children enjoy splashing in the pool.
4. I.D Bracelets – If you child has a tendency to wander off, it can be a challenge for the parents/ guardians to keep constant track of where they are. As hard as you try, there is always a slight possibility of losing the child for some time. There are ID bracelets which children can wear in case such a situation happens, especially if the child is non-verbal. There are various models and type of these bracelets but they all have space for contact details in case the child is lost and found by other persons. It would also make sense to inform the lifeguards on duty upon your arrival so as they can keep an extra eye out on your child.
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