The anxiety of knowing you will soon have to travel with an autistic child is one any autism parent can relate to. Especially when traveling long distances.
But thanks to countless advocates of children with special needs, non-profit organizations and care networks, there are proven methods to help make your travel as easy and painless as possible.
Routine, Routine, Routine
Parents and caregivers of children with autism know full well that strict adherence to a routine is important in the daily life of the child, and travel days should be no different. Too much deviation from routine, even on the most minutiae of details, can lead to tremendous anxiety and tantrums that may only get worse for the duration of travel.
The night before your travel day and the morning before leaving for the airport, do everything you would normally do on any other normal day. This would be everything from laying out clothes, to bedtime reading, to bath routines, to the placement of toys or electronic devices, to having breakfast.
Just as importantly, do your best to follow your at-home routines even when you are away. This predictability reduces stress and anxiety and helps the child feel more in control, and will make for a much less stressful trip.
Some experts recommend turning the travel date into an event marked on the calendar, something to look forward to. Make travel something exciting and new, not something to dread, or be fearful of.
OVERALL, MAKE SURE YOU ARE FULLY PREPARED FOR ANYTHING AND PACK ACCORDINGLY.
- Have documentation of your child’s diagnosis ready, in case airport or airline staff request it.
- Make sure you have any stuffed animal, toy, book or electronic device that might be soothing to your child should something unexpected occur.
- If your child is sensitive to loud sounds, bring noise-canceling headphones.
- Bring a change of clothes in case of spills.
Try to bring something reminds them of the comfort of home, whatever that may be.
- Don’t forget snacks or meals either, especially if you are taking a long flight.
Make sure you ask in advance what food will be served, if any. Or, make sure you bring enough food for the entire trip or leave yourself enough time to buy some food and drinks at the airport food court or stores after passing through security.
Above all, go over everything you’ve packed in detail and make sure you have everything you may need. It is always better to pack too much than pack too little.
PREPARE IN ADVANCE
The single most important factor in being able to travel with an autistic child without incident is to avoid surprises.
That is why every parent or guardian should begin to prepare their child weeks in advance of the travel date, going over every detail of the trip, no matter how small, and every possible scenario.
Go over every minute of the trip, starting when the child gets out of bed.