Friday, July 25, 2008

Fear of Flying? Seeking tips on "special needs" air travel

This article on the perils of airplane travel with children who have autism has me a bit wary. Next Friday Sayer and I are travelling to the San Jose area to visit my sister and her family. Sayer has not flow in about five years, since a disastrous trip to LA .

Talk about karma - a woman on the flight down asked me to have Sayer stop playing with a toy cell phone; apparently the noise was bothering some of the passengers. I turned it off, reluctantly, since it was the only thing that somewhat calmed him down - this was before the term "stimming" was even in my vocabulary. The same woman was on our return flight, right behind us, when Sayer cried non-stop - which made an annoying toy phone seems like Beethoven in comparison.

I have been reading his a social story book from his last airplane ride, plus a few kids books on airports and flying. He has been to the Portland airport before, although he mainly associates it with eating lunch at Panda Express.

I have taken the suggestion of bringing music, and Jacob downloaded three Raffi CDs onto my Ipod - not great for shuffle mode when I'm working out but I'll appreciate it in the air. I also got a new game for Sayer's Leapster.

Any other suggestions from about flying with children who have special needs. Should we opt to board early, or get on as close to take-off as possible? How do I deal with people sitting near us?


Susan said...

Wow, I also have an eight-year-old son with autism, and a teenager at home...AND a toddler, so you can imagine why we don't fly often...

The best luck I've had however is telling the airline ahead of time: at booking, then with a phone call a day or so ahead, then again at the check-in. The airline staff have always been great help providing Son with colouring books, toys, snacks, whatever, which helps distract him.

I like to sit us near the stewards too, just in case--all the way in the front doesn't feel so claustrophobic, but the back gets fed first, hey!

The obvious one I guess is to eliminate sugar and junk food for the travel day and the day before, and pack plenty of healthy kids at least never refuse to eat.

And I always buy an activities book and new pack of pencils for the trip, something with his favourite characters, and then I do it with him to keep him focused; I spent one eight-hour trip playing 92 games of hangman; I needed pills after that one! But he was happy, and did a good job at it too.

Reading the social stories are a great idea. As for the people sitting near you, I think that as long as you're engaged and patient and working with your son, they'll see that, and appreciate it no matter how hard a time he has...besides, every flight has one, doesn't it? If it's not us, then it's the newborn baby on her way to see Grandma, or the businessman with the violent cold he's spreading to everyone, or the sweet but very loud lady talking nonstop to her seatmate about her visit to her son. Flying just wouldn't be the same without it.

Anyhow, have a wonderful trip! I hope Sayer likes his new Leapster game enough that it does the trick, and the flight passes smoothly for you both.

(If you figure out any new tips... pass them on!!) I found you at BlogHer by the way, and I blog too at .

Carol said...

That's a good point - there always IS someone on a plane. I'll be sure to pack plenty of snacks, especially food that takes a while to eat!

Anonymous said...

I will be saying a little prayer for you and Sayer (and sending you good vibes)...obviously, we don't fly....I am not ready for that, yet. I am not sure I will ever be ready for that.

Beyond the other suggestions, a neighbor suggested we give him something to put him to sleep. I don't know if that would work.


Anonymous said...

Hi Carol, we don't travel anymore with Geoffrey by plane, mostly because of his size (5'10", 200 or so pounds). His periods of agitation are much less frequent than when he was younger and smaller, but even the smallest amount of fidgeting in a large adult is scarier than in a child. Best wishes for a wonderful trip........Pam