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Old 03-21-2013, 11:00 AM   #1
Makcarly
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Flying with someone on the spectrum

We leave one month from today!

My son is 12 and he is on the spectrum. He is verbal and does okay but he can get extremely overwhelmed in new situations. I am very nervous about flying with him. I have tried to explain what will happen (everything from leaving the house to when we arrive at the resort) but I don't think he really understands exactly what it is like to fly. He is already apprehensive about take-off and not being able to do anything with his electronics until we get the okay. He had a check up a week or so ago and the Dr. said he has negative pressure in his ears. He has had several ear infections lately and even though there isn't one now, it's definitely something he needs to recheck before we fly so we will check that in a couple of weeks. I guess what I am worried most about is that his ears won't be able to pop and he will be in a lot of pain. Ear pain is something that will really set him off and he can become pretty agitated and inconsolable if his ears hurt. Our Dr. did give us a note for the FA if necessary saying he has Autism and Anxiety. Do I need to let the airline know in advance? Any other tips? I plan on bringing his favorite snacks, his 3DS and a new game, and noise cancelling headphones (he LOVES headphones). We (along with my 15 year old DD) are flying Airtan.
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Old 03-21-2013, 11:24 AM   #2
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the TSA has some info on travelling with someone with Autism, so it's important to start there: http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-informat...l-disabilities

here is more information specifically on autism and TSA including links to the TSA cares program and how to access those services: http://www.autism-society.org/news/i...dividuals.html

You can also call your local airport to see if they're offering any TSA programs such as the one pictures in this video http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/hea...ism.flight.cnn

as for the ears - will he chew gum?? That's the easiest way to keep his ears open. Or get a water bottle that he can keep sucking on.
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Old 03-21-2013, 12:30 PM   #3
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If he's prone to ear pain, I highly recommend EarPlanes. They're a special type of ear plug specifically for ear pain when flying. My 12yo gets really bad ear pain going up and down but with these she doesn't feel any when going up and it's tollerable when going down. Definitely get them ahead of time so he can get used to the feel of them before you go.

You can check with the gate agent to see if you can preboard with him. This would give you a few extra minutes to get him seated and his stuff comfortably placed in accessible places around him without having to worry about people trying to get by, lining up behind you or even just the commotion, activity and noise going on all around.

I agree with buffettgirl that you should check with your airport to see if they have any kind of autism program. Both of the airports in my area have scheduled times where you can come in and do a sort of trial run of all the steps you'll go through at the airport.

Something else to discuss with him is the kind of interaction that will be expected of him. The TSA agent who looks at your ID will speak to him, most likely asking his name and possibly asking who you are in relation to him (though the wording could be different). If you explain that he's autistic then the agent should be understanding (thank goodness or one time the way my DD snapped at the agent might have gotten us detained) but having him understand the social expectation is helpful.
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Old 03-21-2013, 12:44 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by clanmcculloch View Post
If he's prone to ear pain, I highly recommend EarPlanes. They're a special type of ear plug specifically for ear pain when flying. My 12yo gets really bad ear pain going up and down but with these she doesn't feel any when going up and it's tollerable when going down. Definitely get them ahead of time so he can get used to the feel of them before you go.

You can check with the gate agent to see if you can preboard with him. This would give you a few extra minutes to get him seated and his stuff comfortably placed in accessible places around him without having to worry about people trying to get by, lining up behind you or even just the commotion, activity and noise going on all around.

I agree with buffettgirl that you should check with your airport to see if they have any kind of autism program. Both of the airports in my area have scheduled times where you can come in and do a sort of trial run of all the steps you'll go through at the airport.

Something else to discuss with him is the kind of interaction that will be expected of him. The TSA agent who looks at your ID will speak to him, most likely asking his name and possibly asking who you are in relation to him (though the wording could be different). If you explain that he's autistic then the agent should be understanding (thank goodness or one time the way my DD snapped at the agent might have gotten us detained) but having him understand the social expectation is helpful.
I really agree with the bolded. My DS 12 who has ASD is a pretty good traveler. But on a recent trip we were taken by surprise by the TSA agent asking each of my kids their name and age. DS froze and could hardly get his name out. The agent held up a hand for me to be quiet when I tried to speak for DS. Then DS told the wrong age (his birthday was in a week or two so he thought the agent would want to know what age he was about to be...). Altogether it was pretty suspicious! I had to step in then and say that DS has ASD, which embarrassed him badly because he HATES it when I tell strangers that.
Now I prepare him, and all my kids, for those questions a little bit better.
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Old 03-21-2013, 01:51 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mrs.Malone View Post
I really agree with the bolded. My DS 12 who has ASD is a pretty good traveler. But on a recent trip we were taken by surprise by the TSA agent asking each of my kids their name and age. DS froze and could hardly get his name out. The agent held up a hand for me to be quiet when I tried to speak for DS. Then DS told the wrong age (his birthday was in a week or two so he thought the agent would want to know what age he was about to be...). Altogether it was pretty suspicious! I had to step in then and say that DS has ASD, which embarrassed him badly because he HATES it when I tell strangers that.
Now I prepare him, and all my kids, for those questions a little bit better.
that goes for ANY child. My son is notorious for calling himself the age he's going to be as long as it's within 6-9 months from his birthday. LOL. I had to explain to him that when "official" people ask him that question they want to know his age now. Not in 6 months, not what he wishes he was. I can't tell you how many times we'll be at the doctors and they'll say "how old are you", he responds, "13". And i have to say say, no, he's only 12. uggh. TSA is worse.
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Old 03-21-2013, 02:35 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by buffettgirl View Post
that goes for ANY child. My son is notorious for calling himself the age he's going to be as long as it's within 6-9 months from his birthday. LOL. I had to explain to him that when "official" people ask him that question they want to know his age now. Not in 6 months, not what he wishes he was. I can't tell you how many times we'll be at the doctors and they'll say "how old are you", he responds, "13". And i have to say say, no, he's only 12. uggh. TSA is worse.
True! TSA agents must get all kinds of funny responses from kids, special needs or not. My younger son (not on the spectrum) was adopted, and once when the TSA agent asked him if I am his mother, he said "No, actually she's not." And this is the child who gets so mad if anyone implies to him that I'm not really his mom!
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Old 03-21-2013, 04:17 PM   #7
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Someone mentioned preboarding. In OP's case, since son is already nervous about being without his electronics until it is clear, will preboarding give him too much time to build up his anxiety? He may be sitting in the seat for 20 minutes before the plane even moves, then 15-20 minutes until he can use electronics in the air. Should they board last and spend less time sitting? I don't know, just throwing it out there. I know being rushed to get in the seat wouldn't be good either.
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Old 03-21-2013, 04:30 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by StitchesGr8Fan View Post
Someone mentioned preboarding. In OP's case, since son is already nervous about being without his electronics until it is clear, will preboarding give him too much time to build up his anxiety? He may be sitting in the seat for 20 minutes before the plane even moves, then 15-20 minutes until he can use electronics in the air. Should they board last and spend less time sitting? I don't know, just throwing it out there. I know being rushed to get in the seat wouldn't be good either.
I actually thought the same thing. One thing I suggest with small children (I know it isn't the same, but a similar reasoning) is that one parent (and older children) can board and get things set up (car seat set up and bags stowed) and the other parent can stay out at the gate and board near the end with the young child. The line generally thins out near the end - but not so late that you are then rushed.

Just a thought.
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Old 03-23-2013, 07:11 AM   #9
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I am flying this July with my 2 autistic boys, ages 9 and 11. The 9 yo is non-verbal. I think he may enjoy the movement of the flight, but have some fear during take-off and landing. My idea was to pull out a lollipop if he gets really upset, or something else to eat. Gum, if they could chew it, would help for the ears.

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Old 03-23-2013, 10:41 AM   #10
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The Earplanes are really great! I have ear trouble when I fly and have been using Earplanes for years now. They come in adult and child size, so make sure you get a size that is comfortable. I find them in the eardrops section at Walgreens and Walmart.
When my ds was younger, I would always buy a new toy or game that would interest him, and give it to him after we got settled on the plane, waiting for take-off. Don't know if at age 12 you can find something other than electronic games that would interest him, but give some thought to it! Also, would he read anything, books or magazines? I would buy my ds car magazines, or Popular Mechanic.
I would also brings snacks to keep him occupied. He's underweight, so eating was always a good thing for him, lol. Small pack of M&Ms, goldfish crackers, something with individual pieces that take a while to eat. He never knew I had these things, otherwise he obsessed over them. So I would pull some "surprise" out if things were starting to go bad.
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Old 03-23-2013, 04:38 PM   #11
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As far as not being able to use the electronics before given the ok to do so. Why not buy him a couple presents he can open and play with in the mean time. This might keep him occupied for a bit. As far as ear popping. I would also buy a bottle of water before boarding the flight and have him take a drink as the plane takes off. Make sure when he drinks to have him tip his head back. This will open up the ear tubes
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Old 03-23-2013, 07:08 PM   #12
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My DS(15) ASD needs to be prepped for flights. We search youtube for the airline we are flying, we research the plane, if we know our seating assignment we find a seat chart for the plane etc. We use the handicapped entrance for the TSA to avoid pushing and overcrowding. I approach the TSA agent first and give them the heads up that son has ASD. We practice going through a metal detector (door frame at home) we also have long talks about what we can not under any circumstances talk about while flying ex. plane crashes and 9/11.

He also has ear issues, so he always gets a nasal decongestant 1 hour before flight time. He does not chew gum, but he will eat Skittles that I feed him 1 by 1. A water bottle is an absolute must. We pre-board to get him settled (he uses his electronics until the door is shut and knows that he will be able to turn them back on in about 20 minutes).

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Old 03-23-2013, 07:25 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by gritzel4 View Post
My DS(15) ASD needs to be prepped for flights. We search youtube for the airline we are flying, we research the plane, if we know our seating assignment we find a seat chart for the plane etc. We use the handicapped entrance for the TSA to avoid pushing and overcrowding. I approach the TSA agent first and give them the heads up that son has ASD. We practice going through a metal detector (door frame at home) we also have long talks about what we can not under any circumstances talk about while flying ex. plane crashes and 9/11.

He also has ear issues, so he always gets a nasal decongestant 1 hour before flight time. He does not chew gum, but he will eat Skittles that I feed him 1 by 1. A water bottle is an absolute must. We pre-board to get him settled (he uses his electronics until the door is shut and knows that he will be able to turn them back on in about 20 minutes).

Best of Luck
I agree being prepped for all possible situations is best. A Social Story might work if you think you-tube is too overwhelming.

Good Luck!
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Old 03-23-2013, 10:15 PM   #14
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I also have a son on the spectrum. We as to get seats at the front of the plane as my son gets overwhelmed sensory wise. We also do a social story about security, boarding etc. ths helps too.
My son doesn't do gum either, we do starbursts.
Oh and also I have his doctor write a note explaining he has autism so if makes an off handed comment they will know he doesn't mean it.
Hope that helps!
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Old 03-23-2013, 10:55 PM   #15
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For seating charts, seatguru.com (I think .com) is good.

If there are seats where the row in front of you can not recline (as in emergency exit rows) I recommend them.

Even if your child has moved beyond picture schedules you might want to make one for your travel days.
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