6 Tips For Flying With An Autistic Child
6 Tips For Flying With An Autistic Child
“A child with Autism is not ignoring you, they are waiting for you to enter their world.”
Travel has a way with everyone. Rich and poor. Old and young. Extrovert and introvert. Normal and….special. Everyone invades into everyone’s space at some point. What happens when someone special invades that space of yours in an aeroplane? Say, an autistic child?
Flight travel is as convenient as you let it be. If you are a parent travelling with your autistic child, chances are you’ll be growing white hair at the apparent prospects that may arise on that journey.
This article doesn’t attempt to give you parenting lessons, we’re sure you have that covered. This just attempts at bringing forth a few pointers to show that while it may not be easy, don’t allow it to be tough either.
#1 Test The Waters First
Tell someone, and they’ll forget. Teach someone, and they’ll remember. Involve someone, and they’ll learn. When you zero down on the act of getting your autistic kid on board, take a short flight with them for their first real experience. One hour in a plane is not too much and not too less. It will give you an idea of what you are in for.
#2 Give Them A Heads-Up
Talk at length about flight travels with them. Ask them questions. Tell them answers. Show them videos of landing and take-offs. Explain the process to them; right from getting to the airport to check-ins to engine roars to seat-belt fastening. Play games related to air travel and gauge their reactions. ‘The Noisy Airplane Ride’ by Mike Downs is a great book to describe the sensations of air travel. Even Rupert Isaacson’s ‘The Horse Boy’ is a good read of a couple travelling to Mongolia with their autistic son.
#3 Engage In A Mock Drill
While USA and UK are quite sensitised to the challenges faced by autistic kids, India is yet to catch on. Several international airports conduct mock drills for specially-abled kids, wherein they undergo the entire process of flight travelling just short of the plane take-off. While this is still not as widespread a practice in India, (part of the reason is a fear of lawsuits abroad), it is always a good idea to check with the airport authorities about allowing your kid to go through the entire process once before the actual departure date.
#4 Get Your Documents In Order & Have A Dialogue With The Airline Authorities
It is very important that you carry a doctor’s certificate confirming your child’s autism. Most airlines have a policy that they cannot allow specially-abled people on board unless they have a doctor’s certificate and an attendant with them. Be cordial with the airline’s staff, and make sure to keep them aware that they will be catering to an autistic kid. Just remember one thing, there is a lack of training among Indian airlines when it comes to handling such issues. Although, if there is a flow of co-operation from your side as well as theirs, this is not an impossible task to pull off.
#5 Inform The Airlines To Accommodate You On Priority
Arrive early for departure, and arrange with the airline to be seated on the plane first. Request them days before departure, and throw in timely reminders just before the date. Let the airline know that if you’re given preference over the other passengers in line, it would be comfortable for your child. Your child in comfort in turn would be the plane’s comfort too.
#6 Bring Re-Enforcements
Make a list of essentials that your child will need during the travel. We don’t doubt your knowledge of your kid’s likes and dislikes, so no preaching on that. Just plan ahead and carry entertainment games, and goods that keep your kid occupied in case of delays. Don’t hesitate to ask the air hostess for any extra things which your kid would like (noise-cancellation headphones is a winner). Kids are fussy in general about the food they get on flights, so keep extra munchies and their favourite snacks in handy.
Your child has autism, but don’t let autism have him. Worry less about the autism and enjoy it more. Ignore if passengers on board frown at the invasion of space made by your child’s actions. Drunk passengers and high-handed politicians seem to get away with much worse on a flight.
And just in case you’d like to read more stories about travelling with kids, click here.
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