Have a good airport and flying experience with your child with Autism: Planning for Sensory Issues

Laura Vickers‘ fun new picture book, Flying with Janet, prepares children with ASDs for the unfamiliar sights and sounds of the airport experience – from packing and getting ready to leave home, to traveling to the airport, checking in, going through security, boarding the plane, taking off, turbulence, using the on-board bathroom, landing, and baggage reclaim.

Here are just some of the great tips and advice for parents included in the book:


Before you leave for your trip…

Have your child help make the plan for dealing with sensory issues and choose what they’d like to bring in a “Go Bag.” If she feels she has something she can do in a situation, it gives her a sense of control that reduces her anxiety.

Noise

Especially in places with high ceilings and lots of people, for example check-in and security, there can be a lot of echoing background noise. Noise reduction headphones or listening to music from headphones can help. Ear plugs come in many different styles; you may be able to find one your child likes. Bathrooms can be noisy, especially with the loud, unexpected flushes. Carts used by the airline to transport people emit a loud, piercing beeping as a warning.

From the book: "One annoying thing is when the captain makes announcements that are too loud or too quiet. Most of the time, though, the announcements are just right."

Crowds

If your child is feeling overwhelmed and needs more space in a crowd, we have found it useful to use our adult arms and bodies combined with the luggage to create at least a small breathing space around Janet. She doesn’t like to be touched when stressed, so we can’t just pick her up to raise above the crowd.

Smells

Strong smells can happen anywhere, especially in crowded places. As discussed in the book, bringing something with a strong flavor to chew or a favorite perfume or smell to put on a tissue to hold to the child’s nose can help. Places to be especially aware of are drop off/pickup areas (where exhaust builds up) and bathrooms. Also, if it is a warm day, be aware that an aircraft has limited electricity from the time it pushes back from the gate until just before take off; there may be several minutes without air conditioning.

Temperature/Touch

Consider bringing a first aid chemical cold pack and use it to cool down your child if they become too hot. A battery powered mini-fan can also be useful in the heat. If it is cold, don’t count on a blanket or pillow to be provided on the plane. Bring lots of layers, and perhaps chemical warming packs. If your child likes to touch everything, or has allergies like Janet, bring some antibacterial wipes and wipe everything the child might touch.

Copyright © Jessica Kingsley Publishers 2012.

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