5 Strategies for flying with an Autistic Child
Children who are on the autism spectrum are more comfortable with a structure and routine.Any kind of change can be an unnerving experience for the child, as well as their families. With so many new things around, like security checks, escalators, boarding tunnels and cramped seats, flying can be particularly intimidating for kids with autism. The unfamiliar noises and a multitude of strangers further exacerbates the situation.
According to experts, preparation and practice is the best way to prepare a child with autism for the upcoming flying experience. Here are some strategies to make your child as comfortable as possible:
Prepare your child
In the initial stages, make sure you take flights with small duration to get your child more comfortable with flying. In the weeks leading up to the trip, talk to your child about what to expect during the trip. Give a detailed account of the travel process and explain everything from how you’ll get to the airport, to spending time onboard. Reading a book like The Noisy Airplane Ride by Mike Downs, which describe the sensations of air travel can also be helpful.
Talk to the airline
Most airlines are very accommodating when it comes to personal requests for special needs children. As far as possible, let your airline know that you’ll be flying with a child with autism. Request for seats in the front or ones with more leg space, which will feel less confining and eliminate the possibility of seat-kicking.
Request Priority boarding
Find out if your airline allows the option to pre-board, and notify them in advance if you wish to do so. Just to be on a safe side, arrive early at the departure gate and make the request again. Early boarding gives your child the chance to get settled and make themselves comfortable before all the other passengers arrive.
Create their space
After boarding the plane, try to create a sense of familiarity for the child. It helps them feel safe and secure. You can take a heavy blanket, noise-cancelling headphones and anything to distract them. Also, remember to pack their favorite things like a favorite toy or pillow to make them feel comforted.
Keep your child’s documentation on top, in case the airport or airline staff requests for it. Make sure you carry your child’s favorite food items and also pack a change of clothes in case of spills.
Things can be pretty overwhelming for a child with autism when it comes to air travel (or travel in general). These little steps might make it a little bit easier for your child to enjoy the flight.