We all need holidays at least once a year. Traveling by plane is pretty exciting for many of us, but for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), air travel can be particularly stressful.
Here are eight tips to help make traveling by plane an easier, more positive experience for the whole family:
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- If it is the very first flight for your child, choose a short journey. It is essential to limit the flight time; do not choose a flight that is longer than three or four hours. A small trip can give your child an opportunity to get acquainted with the process.
- It’s important you prepare your child and practice the possible situations step by step. For best results, consider starting two to three weeks before the flight. Hopefully, this will make your child feel much more secure during the trip. Start, for example, by reading a few books aloud to learn everything about planes and airports. If possible, visit an airport just to give your child a chance to experience some of the sights and sounds. Social stories are also an effective tool, providing more personalized information.
- Investigate whether your airport offers special programs for autistic children. For example, the Philadelphia International Airport works together with autism professionals, ensuring that children with autism become more familiar with traveling. They offer access to the airport to let your child see everything in advance, such as the check-in and the security gate.
- Talk to your child about what will happen—creating a dialogue with your child will aid the process.
- In the case of more than one child, agree with your partner who is responsible for which child during the flight. Discuss the particular incidents that could happen (tantrums, boredom, hunger, ) and agree how to calm the child or ways to help him/her sleep. Be prepared.
- Talk to the airline, too. Make sure that you find someone willing to listen and accommodate your family’s needs, as not everyone understands Also, try to find out if the flight crew offers varied programs between the meals. I recommend taking various toys with you as well as some entertainment (favorite music), a camera, little gifts (packaged in wrapping paper and appropriate to the particular age of your child) and treats. All of this is very helpful for your child’s distraction and relaxation. Here a little trick: One week before the flight, let a few of the favorite toys disappear and magically let the toys come back out of your luggage during the flight.
- Ask the airline about what will be available to eat and to drink ahead of time. Be sure to mention food issues or allergies. This way, you can decide if it would be better to bring snacks.
- Be sure to plan your arrival and transfer times carefully so your child doesn’t become too tired. Staying well-rested will make a big difference.
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Wishing you all the best during your next journey.
This is article was featured in Issue 73 – Amazing Ways To Support Autism