Over the years, I have read many stories of children having difficulty with travelling on airplanes,
venturing out of their organized structure, experiencing unfamiliar surroundings, can pose hurdles and behaviour issues. As a family we travel a lot , there are always good and bad moments. Here are some strategies you can use with your Autism and neurotypical child.
1. PREPARE NIAM IN ADVANCE
Niam uses a calendar, he loves his day organized, and, likes to know the main events of each day for a week. As soon as we book a vacation, we start telling him the day we are leaving. I have him schedule the day in the family calendar. In his mind, Niam is preparing for the change in the environment and begins to get excited about the trip. We write on the calendar where we are going, and some fun facts. We will even research places on the internet.
2. CREATE A SOCIAL STORY OF THE STEPS
I created a social story available on line on Able2learn.com for you to download for free. It details waiting in line at the checkout, to standing in line at customs, and the expectations of going through security. Where possible use pictures of your child to personalize it. You can get pictures from google images. You can bring the social story to the airport andturn the pages as you move through the steps, it allows a child to know where he is in the book and what is coming next.
3. CREATE EXTRA CHECKLISTS OF DETAILS
This may sound a bit crazy for some, I have to tell you, it works like a charm for me, I have created a task list of details steps, I use over and over again, for certain parts of the airport, security being one of these places. In the task list, I have to wait in line, hands to yourself, quiet mouth, take off your shoes put inbox, take off jacket put inbox, and the list goes on. He loves it. Niam loves checkmarks, this works like a beauty. We always line up for Starbucks cookies after as a reward. It only took two vacations before he mastered the security routine and, we no longer needed the checklists. ( I did the checklist when he was five)
4. LEAVE VERY EARLY
This is very important, leave early to give ample time to be able to do all the above steps. Niam loves to look outside the window before he boards to watch the suitcases go up into the airplane. I have noticed it is not just my child who does this.
5. MAKE SURE YOUR CHILD GOES TO THE WASHROOM JUST BEFORE BOARDING THE AIRPLANE
I am not sure why, the second we board, Niam has to go to the washroom, he loves the fact, it is the airplane washroom, imagine people boarding, and your child announces in the middle of the line he has to go to the washroom. We have taught him he is to go the washroom before we board, and only when the seatbelt sign is off.
6. PACK YOUR CHILD’S FAVOURITE FOOD AND SNACKS
Once I forgot, and ended up paying $60.00 at Starbucks for cookies , chips and all types of goodies, to keep my little one happy and, my older son, joined in the festivities of snack collecting. I learned my lesson, never again, a trip to Walmart for loads of goodies at reasonable prices. This is not limited to children with Autism. Snacks for the airplane is good for everyone in the family.
7. PACK ACTIVITIES
Niam is not into board games, colouring or any of those games and activities that are actually good for the development of the brain, he prefers watching movies like any other child. I pack the tablet, hand charger, load up movies and games, to make sure he is quiet and busy on the ride. I have to tell you this is why Niam loves flying, no time restriction on the tablet, its Niam heaven for the duration of the ride. My older son always wants to sit beside him, they share their movies and snacks.
Teach your child simple motor tasks with these FREE flashcards. Download it here.