The Secrets To Flying With A Child With Autism - Part 2

This is part two of our post on flying with a child with autism. To read part one on how to prepare before the flight, click here.

During the Flight



1) Bring entertainment. Bring a mix of novel and old items so your child has some of their usual videos, toys, etc, but don’t forget the keep them interested by including brand new items. If you can afford it, bring things that your child hasn’t seen to keep them attentive. Just make sure the toys don’t make noise (for the folks around you), and that they have headphones if watching a movie.

REMEMBER: Keep a few novel items for the ride home. Don’t use all your ammo on the way there!

2) Bring food. I’m sure you already do this, but always bring food with you on the flight. I’m not just talking snacks, but sandwiches, fruit, and drinks too. I have sat on the runway for up to 4 hours at a time, and each time I was thankful that I had brought food with me and didn’t have to suffer in an uncomfortable plane.

Great snacks include fruit (dried or fresh), cereal (sometimes milk is stocked on the plane), a jar of peanut butter and some bread to make sandwiches anytime. Also, bring an empty water bottle through security and you can refill it all day at airport water fountains while saving cash. Add powder Crystal Light to the water and, voila! you have lemonade for the kids.

3) Let your flight attendants know that you’re traveling with a child who has special needs. It never hurts to have them on your side, and to fulfill your special requests (i.e. you need juice before the beverage service starts).

4) Board early. Ensure you are at the gate 1 hour prior, this way you will be available during early boarding and can be one of the first people in the plane. This extra time will help you get settled before the masses come barreling on behind you. This will help to ensure a stress-free boarding.

5) Delivering the entertainment. Just as you would do at home, remember to reinforce your child’s good behavior. Don’t deliver their reinforcers immediately after a tantrum. Wait till they engage in appropriate behavior to give them the reinforcer. For example, praise them for sitting well, wearing their seatbelt, etc. and deliver the reinforcer following appropriate behavior. Think prevention.

6) Be prepared for behavior. Even if you do everything above, we all know that challenging behavior can happen anywhere. Sometimes, especially in a crowded metal tube blasting through the sky, you can’t fully implement a behavior plan like you would at home, and so you may have to “give in” to the screaming just to achieve peace.

Don’t feel bad if you do, since most all behaviors can be reversed later, and giving in (as a last resort) may be your only option. This doesn’t mean your child can do whatever they want, but keep the demands low so that you don’t set the situation up for a meltdown.

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