For some, traveling by plane is their preferred way to get around the country, but for others, plane rides can be a nerve-wracking experience—especially if it’s your first time. Although kids look forward to exploring new environments and vacationing, it can be challenging for children with autism to get accustomed to the hustle and bustle of the airport.
Traveling will encourage your child to try new things and expose them to various social settings allowing them to utilize their skills. Don’t stress or cancel your plans! To help make your traveling plans go smoothly, here’s how to prepare your child with autism for air travel.
Create a Social Story
If your child is in ABA therapy, you will already know how important it is to attend the ABA parent training. It’s important because you will learn different ways to prepare your child for new environments, including creating social stories.
A few weeks before you all head to your vacation spot, create a social story or visuals with your child that explains the entire air-travel process so there are no surprises. Include videos and pictures of the airport security stops, the airplane, baggage claim, and all the other steps to get to your destination.
Mark It on the Calendar
A few weeks before the trip, hang a calendar in their room or a common space with a marked departure date. This way, you and your child can excitedly countdown until the big day! This will help get your child excited for the trip and less intimidated or nervous.
Do a Practice Run by Role Playing
While some airports may allow you to run a practice in the facility, role-playing at home can get the job done. Take turns pretending to be the TSA officer and someone walking through security. You can get creative and add airport noises in the back from YouTube to give the full effect. It will benefit your child to get as detailed as possible, so there’s no confusion or uncomfortable moments.
Pack All the Comfort Essentials
If your child has items that bring them comfort, like a specific blanket, stuffed animal, or toy, don’t put them in your checked bag. Instead, pack it in your carry-on to have it with you throughout the trip. You should also bring a second item just in case there’s a lost bag or delayed baggage claim.