Autism and Air Travel
Traveling, especially autism and air travel can be anxiety-producing for parents (and kids!). This change in routine can be even more difficult for autistic children and children with other special needs. I’ve put together some tips for how to fly with an autistic child and I hope they are helpful to your family!
Prepare your child with autism by writing a little story about air travel (it can be handwritten with stick figure people). Be sure to keep it simple, yet informational. You can even role-play at home! I do have two informational stories for children with autism regarding air travel. Check them out here.
2. USE VISUAL SUPPORTS
A social story will prepare your child ahead of time and can be re-read during the trip. It is also important to bring an easy-to-use visual schedule. I created one for you! You can use the visual schedule, as well as a first-then board to show children what is going to happen at the airport and on the airplane. A first-then board can help with tricky situations. For example, if you know going through security might be difficult, you can put pictures on the first-then board and show your child “first security, then iPad”. First – Then boards can be magical! You can find the free visual supports to support children with autism and air travel here.
3. BRING HEADPHONES
For children who are sound sensitive, practice wearing headphones or earplugs before your trip. You can use either noise-blocking headphones or headphones that play music. Headphones can really be a life-saver for your child with autism when it comes to air travel. If you need a story about wearing headphones, you can check out this free story.
4. FAVORITE FOOD
We know that there are not a lot of options for food on airplanes. Combine that with children who are picky eaters or have a limited diet, it might lead to hangry kiddos. So, be sure to stock up and bring all the favorites with several options to choose from. You will be so happy you did!
Give some thought to what toys your child likes (that are kind of quiet). Bring a few things so there are some choices. Crayons and paper, books, small toys to hold (little cars and trains), dolls are great in addition to reliable electronic devices. Give thought to what activities on the electronic devices may need to have something downloaded before you leave the house. Sometimes when there is no internet, certain apps/games won’t be accessible. So, try to think ahead about how to avoid meltdowns if there is no internet. Planning ahead can really help when you are figuring out how to fly with an autistic child. Plan A, Plan B, Plan C. Be prepared.
If your child doesn’t have an effective communication system yet, I would highly recommend putting together a DIY visual communication book! Using pictures can help reduce frustration and increase a child’s ability to communicate with others. Check out my DIY Visual Communication Book here!