Child Therapy: Traveling Tips

Spring break for many people is a time to relax and rewind on a beautiful beach or lively city, but for children with Autism it may be associated with broken routines and sensory overload. Flying with children with Autism can present many challenges from the airport security, moving sidewalks, tight spaces, and loud noises. Below are some tips to make your travel experience as comfortable as possible for you and your family:

1.     Wings for Autism:

Wings for Autism is a program that provides a “rehearsal” airport experience for individuals with autism spectrum disorders and individuals with intellectual developmental disabilities. Families are able to practice going through airport security and boarding an airplane with first time flyers. It is a great way to help your child become familiar with the process without the added stressors of making a flight in time. For more information, visit The Arc to see when they are visiting your city!

2.    Rehearsal at home.

Recreate the airport experience at home by packing bags, role-playing security, and setting up chairs in the living room as an airplane. The more familiar your child is with the new routine, the more comfortable they will feel.

3.    Apps.

Off We Go: Going on a Plane is an interactive app that takes a child through the steps of flying with realistic airport noises.

4.    Explore the airport.

A few days leading up to your trip, take a visit to your airport with your child. Let them experience the lobby of the airport, watch the planes take off, and listen to the noises associated with traveling.

5.    Read books about flying

My First Airplane Ride, Maisy Goes on a Plane: A Maisy First Experiences Book, and Richard Scarry’s A Day at the Airport are all great books to introduce the experience of flying.

6.    TSA Cares:

72 hours prior to traveling contact Transportation Security Administration’s hot line, TSA cares, for priority check-in and boarding for travelers with disabilities. For more information, click here.

7.    Pack the essentials.

Pack a carry-on with all the essentials to make your child most comfortable. Noise-canceling headphones, snacks, empty water bottle, books, and electronics may all come in handy.

8.    Taste of Home.

Don’t forget your child’s favorite stuffed animal or blanket from home. Dress your child in their favorite, most comfortable outfit.

9.    New toy.

Surprise your child with a new toy or movie to open when they get on the plane. This will serve as a motivator for your child through airport security and provide them with a distraction on the plane ride.

10.  Take breaks.

Allow enough time to take breaks throughout the process. Find a quiet corner for your child to decompress after a stressful activity such as airport security.

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Resources:

“7 Tips for Flying with an Autistic Child | Travel with a Special Needs Child.” MiniTime, www.minitime.com/trip-tips/7-Tips-for-Flying-with-an-Autistic-Child-article.

Harris, Meg. “Top 10 Tips for Flying With Special Needs Children.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 9 July 2014, www.huffingtonpost.com/meg-harris/top-ten-tips-for-flying-w_b_5569604.html.

“National Initiatives.” The Arc | Wings for Autism®, www.thearc.org/wingsforautism.