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Making Special Visits A Reality

YHAV intends to ensure that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities get the freedom, connection, and transformation that they deserve.

Kristin Slobe loves octopus. If you ask her about it, she’ll smile big and tell you that she thinks octopus is “delicious.” She first got to sample a grilled octopus dish while visiting me in Washington, D.C., where I live. My sister Kristin has Smith-Magenis Syndrome, a developmental disorder that can cause intellectual disabilities as well as speech and language delays. She lives with my parents in Red Creek, NY.

Last month, she was the first participant in the trial-run of a program called “You Have a Visitor” (YHAV), which brought her from Syracuse to DC. Through the program, she was an active participant in her own travel and the new experiences that followed. I got to witness her independence and excitement created by the new adventure that she enthusiastically agreed to embark upon.

YHAV (pronounced why - hav) is a program dedicated to affording individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities opportunities to travel, on their own terms. It’s designed to facilitate connections among siblings who live far apart; give Kristin, and others like her, a taste of the freedom that comes with any kind of travel; and to give siblings of individuals with disabilities the confidence and sense of relief that no matter where they live, their siblings have access to them.

Freedom to travel doesn’t come as easily for Kristin as it does for most of us. If Kristin wants to make the 45 minute trip from her home to Syracuse, she has to ask my parents or a family friend to take her. If she wanted to visit me in Washington, DC, she’s always had to wait for my parents to decide when to bring her. Unfortunately for Kristin, her adventures depend upon when others are available and willing to take her where she’d like to go.

Kristin’s predicament is not uncommon among adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities. What IS uncommon is to see exceptionally inclusive practices embraced in travel.

Although there are about 19,000 airports in the United States, there are few visible signs of inclusion in air travel. This needs to change. You Have A Visitor intends to be an agent of that change by ensuring that individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities have an opportunity to experience new adventures the way the rest of us do.

YHAV had its first trial-run in August. It was a 3-day adventure for Kristin and Becky Hill, her experienced and trusted traveling companion. Becky accompanied Kristin every step of the way, from Syracuse airport security to the Washington, DC airport’s baggage claim, and back again.

For the first time in more than 29 years, Kristin had an overnight adventure without her parents. Even though we’re in a vastly interconnected world, before Kristin’s trip to DC, she still had to imagine for herself the restaurant where I love to eat. She would ask me vivid details about my friends, wanting to know everything from their names and where I met them, to their hair color and whether they’re a “sweet person.” She wants to be a part of my life, and just like all of us, she wants to feel included.

With YHAV, Kristin doesn’t have to wait for me to come home, and she doesn’t have to imagine the restaurants I tell her I eat at, or my friends whose names she only hears about. Now she’s visited those restaurants and met those important people in my life. Now when she misses me, she knows that it’s possible for her to visit me in the near future - to be a part of my world. I get to know, thanks to YHAV, that I can live anywhere and Kristin is only a flight or train ride away, with or without my parents. YHAV affords these realities to both of us.

Everyone deserves the freedom of inclusion in travel. Everyone deserves to be connected to their loved ones, near and far. Everyone deserves the opportunities for transformation that come from travel, whether that’s a 45-minute drive or a six hour flight, and everything in between.

YHAV intends to ensure that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities get the freedom, connection, and transformation that they deserve.

Travel changes you at a cellular level. When you travel far enough to meet yourself, you are never the same after the adventure. Your pre-traveler self is a memory; it’s someone you used to know, and you are a changed person. Travel brought me independence, freedom, new friends, experiences, food, and most especially, stories. I want Kristin to have those things, and on this past trip to Washington, DC, she got a taste of all of them for herself. Just ask her about the octopus.

Watch as Kristin finds out she made it into the local news paper:

Stay connected with us at YHAV. We have exciting things planned, and more updates are coming soon! If you’re interested in learning more or getting involved, please visit, and sign up to receive updates.

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