Summer vacation is just around the corner bringing excitement to travel. Though not for the parents who have children on the spectrum. For these parents vacation causes anxiety. They would preferably go to a nearby park every day throughout the vacation than break a routine for their ASD kid.
Autism is hard enough and besides that, planning an airplane trip that combines more challenges of crowd, bright lights, waiting for security clearance, escalators, loud noises, take off, landing, confined bathroom spaces, etc. causes sheer panic to a child with ASD as well as to the entire family.
Do not panic to fly with your ASD child instead start preparing them weeks in advance.
ASD kids react positively to a situation if they are prepared well in advance.
Follow these 5 helpful tips that will save you from immense stress and anxiety during your flight journey.
- Start talking regarding your travel plans -Talk to them about all the fun things you would be doing during the vacation period. Also, mention that you will be traveling by plane and what will happen on the plane, etc.
2. Social Stories – Children on the spectrum understand better with visuals. Any abstract topic illustrated with the help of a social story is easy to imagine. Social stories are broken down into numerous steps with descriptive words and terms that adequately demonstrate the social situation.
- It is an excellent idea to read books about travel. I found this amazing book in Amazon that will be helpful to you – My First Airplane Ride by Patricia Hubbell .
- Aside from flying, the process that we go over before boarding the flight can be terrifying to an ASD child; traveling to the airport, waiting in line, security clearance, etc. A social story that illustrates all the procedure in detail will be highly beneficial to prepare your child. You can download this complete social story and read with your child. (Tip: Take printout’s and make a book so that you can carry with you while you travel)
3. Video Modeling– You can use video modeling or also known as role-playing to explain to your child the entire process of check-in, security clearance, boarding the flight, take off, etc. Show to your child the below you tube video that clearly demonstrats the expectations of the airplane trip. Make a point to run this video as many times as possible before the flight trip.
4. Headphones– It’s a good idea to have your ASD child practice wearing noise-canceling headphones as they can have them in the airport or during their flight. These headphones reduce sound exposure considering ASD children are sensitive to sound.
5. Let them prepare their own carry on bags- Pack their carry on bags with their desired things for entertainment during the flight journey; Ipad, coloring sheets, books, etc. If your child is similar to my son who hasn’t started to color or read books yet, then simply a small backpack with his/her headphones and snack will also suffice. The essential purpose here is to allow them to pack their personal bag so that they look forward to the airplane trip.
Helpful Resources –
Also check these wonderful resources that are exclusively developed for the special needs children and their family
DPNA code – This code was introduced in 2008 by The International Air Transport Association (IATA). This code helps people with intellectual and developmental disabilites to travel with ease by allowing travel agents to use this code. They alert airlines on how the individuals need assitance. But sadly, many are not aware of this priceless code and have to go through lot of stress.
TSA cares – TSA and Wings for Autism have joined together to help families with children on the spectrum. TSA cares helpline provides travelers with disabilies additional assistance during the security screening process.
Wings for Autism® is a free program specifically designed to support families of children with autism, creating a travel test run to help ease the stress of airline travel. Click here to check if your nearby airport is offering “Rehearsal Programs” for individuals with Autism.