Flying with an Autistic Child Is All About Good Preparation
National Autism Awareness Month ended on April 30, just weeks before the summer travel season commences. Sometimes families of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder avoid summer vacation plans which include a flight to their destination--after all, children without this condition often find flying stressful, and autistic children have the added challenge of needing routine and predictability. According to Minitime.com, such concerns are understandable, but there are things you can do to prepare your autistic child for a happy and enjoyable first flight.
Here are 7 suggestions to ensure your autistic child’s first flight is as comfortable and incident-free as possible:
Make the first flight a short one--this will mitigate any problems your child might have and prepare them for longer flights in the future. You limit the first flight to no more than one hour if at all possible.
Help your child to prepare--autistic children have a difficult time navigating new and unexpected experiences. Prepare your child by describing what will happen during the flight, paying attention to each step, such as what the airport is like, going through security, and boarding the plane, and explain who everyone is--other passengers, the flight attendants, and the large number of people at the departure gate.
Call the airport to see what accommodations they offer--many airports, such Dulles in Washington, D.C., Logan Airport in Boston and Philadelphia International provide autism access programs. They’ll let you and your child visit the airport days or weeks before your flight to practice. This will better prepare your child for the actual day of the flight.
Tell the airline that you’ll be flying with an autistic child--it’s best to do this well in advance of your flight. You can also ask them to provide you with bulkhead seats, which are more comfortable and feel less confining.
Ask the airline about special meal options--again, let them know you’re flying with an autistic child and ask if special meals, such as those which are gluten free, are available, if this is something you feel you need.
Ask if you and your child can board the plane before other passengers--most airlines are very accommodating for special needs children and will allow you to pre-board. This will help your child get used to the plane without the distraction of many other people boarding at the same time.
Be sure to pack any special documents or equipment--you should definitely pack any documents which describe your child’s condition as the airline might request to see this. If loud noise is a problem, bring headphones that shut out distracting noises. You should also consider bringing those things which will keep your child occupied throughout the flight, such as beloved toys and books.
Vacationing with your autistic child can be a challenge, but the rewards are great. It’s all about giving him or her new experiences--new locations, tastes, touches and smells. New experiences are important to your child’s unfettered development, and there’s no better way to have them than a memorable family vacation--a treat for every member of the family.
To connect and exchange vacation thoughts with other parents of special needs children, contact us today.
From Parents, Travel Writers,