Flying With Autism: Tips for a Smooth and Safe Journey
Flying with autism can be a unique experience that requires careful planning and preparation. For individuals on the autism spectrum and their families, air travel can present various challenges, from navigating the airport to ensuring safety during the flight. In this blog, we’ll explore valuable tips and strategies to make flying with autism a more comfortable and enjoyable experience, with a particular focus on airplane safety, including putting on a seatbelt.
Autism and Flying: Challenges and Considerations
Traveling, including flying, can be overwhelming for individuals with autism due to sensory sensitivities, the unfamiliarity of the airport environment, and the unpredictable nature of air travel.
Here, we’ve listed some key considerations to remember before you board your flight.
Airports and airplanes can be noisy and crowded, which may overwhelm individuals with sensory sensitivities. Loud announcements, security screenings, and the engine’s noise can be distressing.
Travel disrupts established routines, potentially causing anxiety. Changes in mealtime, sleep schedule, and familiar surroundings can be challenging.
Airport security checks, which include going through metal detectors and body scanners, can be unsettling for individuals with autism. It’s essential to prepare your child for these procedures.
Steps to Prepare for Flying With Your Autistic Child
Contact the Airline and Airport
Before your flight, contact the airline and the airport to gather helpful information and discuss any accommodations your child may need. Many airports offer assistance to travelers with disabilities, including autism. Knowing what to expect can reduce anxiety.
Consider an FAA-Approved Child Restraint System (CRS)
If your child is under 2 years old, consider using an FAA-approved child restraint system (CRS) during the flight. It provides additional safety and comfort, similar to using a car seat. If your child typically uses a seatbelt cover in the car, bring one for the airplane seatbelt for familiarity and comfort.
Create a Flying Checklist
Make a checklist of essential items you should bring aboard the plane. Ensure you have your child’s preferred snacks and travel activities to keep them engaged and comfortable. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) provides valuable information for children’s first flights.
Prepare Your Child for the Journey
Social stories and visual schedules can help prepare your child for the flying experience. Explain what happens at the airport, during takeoff, landing, and in-flight, and what to do if they need to use the restroom. Practice boarding and disembarking from the plane and demonstrate how to put on a seatbelt and take off the seatbelt. This preparation can make the process more predictable and less anxiety-inducing.
Seek Assistance When Needed
Don’t hesitate to ask for assistance if you encounter challenges. Airlines and airport staff are there to provide support, such as priority boarding, helping you find a quieter waiting area, or providing additional time during security checks. Your child might ask, “What if I can’t buckle my seatbelt on a plane?” The staff can help explain to your son or daughter that they are there to provide help as needed. With this assurance from the airline personnel, your child on the spectrum can enjoy the flight instead of worrying about it.
Prioritizing Airplane Safety: Putting on a Seatbelt
Ensuring airplane safety, especially regarding the proper use of seatbelts, is crucial during air travel. For individuals with autism, understanding and following safety instructions can be challenging. You want to ensure they understand the consequences of not wearing a seatbelt. However, you need to present the information in an easily digestible way.
Below are a few ways you can help prioritize airplane safety.
Use Visual Supports
Visual supports, such as social stories or step-by-step visual instructions, can help teach your child how to put on and fasten their seatbelt correctly. These visual aids provide a clear visual representation of the process.
Repetition and Practice
Practice putting on and taking off the seatbelt in a calm and comfortable environment, such as at home. Repetition and practice can help your child become more familiar with the process.
If your child uses a seatbelt cover in the car, bring it with you for the flight. This familiar item can provide comfort and reassurance.
Ask for Assistance
If your child is having difficulty with the seatbelt, don’t hesitate to ask for help from flight attendants or airline staff. They are well-trained to assist all passengers, including those with special needs.
You Won’t Fly By the Seat of Your Pants With Blue Parachute’s Helpful Videos
Flying with autism requires thoughtful preparation. With the right strategies, it can be a positive experience for your child and your family. Addressing sensory sensitivities, establishing routines, and prioritizing safety can help your child feel more at ease during air travel.
Remember that every child with autism is unique, so tailor your approach to your child’s specific needs and preferences. With patience and understanding, you can create a smoother and more enjoyable flying experience for your child on the autism spectrum.
For additional resources and support in teaching your child with autism necessary safety and other essential skills, explore the videos available from Blue Parachute. These helpful videos were all created by our team of Licensed and Certified Behavior Therapists. They offer evidence-based content designed to assist individuals with ASD, communities affected by autism, and even those who are autistic as they prepare for adulthood.
You can scroll through our website to learn more about our video catalog and the subscription pricing we offer. Learn more about how these valuable resources can help parents, teachers, children on the spectrum, and others to learn the necessary life skills.
Blue Parachute – Who We Help
Blue Parachute – How We Help
Federal Aviation Administration – Flying With Children
Autism Parenting Magazine – Top Advice for Surviving Plan Travel With Your Autistic Child
Autism Speaks – Taking an Airplane: A Guide for People With Autism