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  • Writer's pictureHannah's Hope


Flying with children can be difficult; ask any parent. However, trying to fly with a child who has neurological differences can be a challenge unlike any other. Michelle Hirschfield wrote for the Travel section of an article titled, "How to Make Flying with a Child with Autism Easier" to highlight the difficulties of such a task and how to make it manageable for both the parents and the rest of the family. She starts off by saying that it is possible to travel successfully with a child who has autism, but it requires both planning and patience. She says, "There's nothing relaxing about traveling with children. But traveling with a child who has autism adds an entire new level of difficulty." It is refreshing, however, to know that there are steps to making the trip a successful and slightly more peaceful one and she added those in her article as well. The first step is to "Map it out." For Hirschfield and her family, they find it helpful to talk about the trip and mark each day off on the calendar about a week before the trip. Each day of the planning, they pack one thing in the suitcase and then one day before the trip, they pack a bag for her son with some of his favorite things in it. The next step is to "Plan for the Worst." This means that separate from the packing she does with her son, she also packs a bag for herself to help manage any outbursts that may occur. This includes some of his favorite toys, an iPad, lolllipops, his favorite snacks, and a reusable water bottle. Within the article she linked a resource for some of the most popular Expert recommended iPad apps for autism, which may be helpful for any parents who allow screen-time or find it useful when traveling. Another important step in planning for travel is to "Speak up," meaning that it may be beneficial to call the airline before the trip because some of them have policies in place that help flyers with disabilities. The willingness to accommodate travelers with special needs is often what makes the trip easier and smoother for everyone involved. Next, if it is within your capabilities, "Pay for what matters." Hirschfield says, "When you travel with kids, your only as happy as your most unhappy child. If your child likes a certain seat, pay the extra fee to get it. That's money well spent. The window seat has saved many of our trips." It is also important to "Communicate." If there are people in front of your family on the flight, it may be helpful to let them know that your child has autism and while you will do your best to keep them content, there may be some disturbances throughout the journey; you may be surprised with the compassion you receive. The next valuable step in this travel process is to "Offer rewards." While bribing children is not everyone's favorite tactic when it comes to parenting styles, it can sometimes be more advantageous than it is harmful. "Never underestimate the power of small bonuses." The last two steps involve this mindset: "Don't forget about the end game." If it's possible, try to "Take someone with you for support." Hirschfield gathers the last steps for planning from Jose Levy, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst at D&S Community Services in Texas, which offers care and resources with people with developmental disabilities. Levy says that in times like these, having someone with you who can give you time and space for a breather can really go a long way. It allows time for a recharge as well as a physical and emotional boost that will likely be, much needed. Lastly, it is important to "Be Flexible." Even when you make it to your destination and you have the perfect itinerary for the vacation or visit, it still will be useful to have a "backup plan" that allows your family some time to regroup and re-settle before jam-packing the rest of the days with a million new things to do. As previously stated, traveling with a child with autism will not be easy or stress-free, but it is possible with the proper planning and preparation.

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